Bee Free Urban Bee Hive

Bee Free Urban Bee Hive

2 Weeks ago, here in Madrid,  friends from our neighborhood sent me a link for an urban beehive project call. Sponsored by the Media Lab associated with the Prado Museum in Madrid the initiative is organized between Beekeepers, scientists, and grafic designers. Its also sponsored by a big time bank and seams to have some legit backing. So, I followed the link and informed myself and though I only had 24 hours to prepare a project proposal I figured It was worth the shot.

As the initiative is based off of a select fews desire to introduce bees into the urban environment of Madrid, the project focuses on using the low profile presence of bees in the urban environment as an indicator of the natural environment millions of people call home. Among other things in the project description, I found it very interesting that Madrid has the highest percentage of trees per square kilometer when compared to all other European cities. Even more so, the majority of indigenous trees including sycamores and poplars are fantastic sources of propolis.

Lastly,  keeping in mind the limited space of the urban environment the project asked that local resources be used. Hives will potentially be kept as they are in other cities and urban spaces on roof tops, public parks and as part of restaurant facilities.

As the initiative has already taken place in other European and US cities I filtered through previous projects and found them all quite futuristic. Space hives, 20 feet off the ground, printable hives and even one fabricated out of plastic. All are to be mounted with computer monitoring devices which take into account air quality, temperatures and hive weight and are then presented in chart formats shifting over time. Strange but interesting at the least.

Partnered with science and art, the project simultaneously aims to educate the general public on the necessity of bee populations for pollination purposes. Bad information is the worst type of education and in Madrid where bees and wasps are thought to be the same by the majority of the population,  a positive light on our much needed pollinating friend is the first step to success. 

In the 24 hours I had to enter a description and design of an urban hive I decided to present an adaption of the Top bar hives we recently constructed in Africa. Half the length and constructed out of shipping pallet wood with the option of adding a honey super once the brood has fully developed, the Bee Free urban hive focuses on the presence of propolis within the hive to assure a heightened immune system of the colony. By joining strips of pallet wood at the 4 corners of the trapezoidal hive, bees are likely to smooth out the gaps between their joining with the sticky substance they collect from nearby trees. More propolis= better defense system= healthier more disease resilient bees.

Just when I was beginning to move on to new projects, I received an email last week saying that my project was selected.

As you can see from the attached hive plan my carpentry drawings skills are a bit shaky, but as the platform begins tomorrow I figured pen and paper would do the trick. But as its a collaborative project, and teams are made in the creation of the prototypes, until I meet a graphic designer/carpenter I think it will do.

The convention begins tomorrow, Wednesday morning with a 15 minute presentation of each of the 6 projects selected and will be recorded and streamed live…

Along with describing this new design Im planning on publicizing a bit of our work in Ethiopia.

As we the platform, seminars and construction workshops continues through the weekend and should provide for plenty of great new experiences.

Wish me luck!

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3382 Miles and 2000 feet

3382 Miles and 2000 feet

3382 miles northwest and 5000 feet closer to sea level than Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia, Bee Free Apiaries is back in full spring here in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. The April sun manages to beat down just, if not stronger than Africa, and in alliance with generous spring showers, flowers are blooming and the early nectar and pollen is flowing.

Our continued collaboration with a local beekeeper and the association he heads continues to  benefit our apiary and in big thanks to the swarm control unit of the Madrid fire Department our apiary is happily expanding.  Julian kindly handed us down a van full of old boxes and equipment he had in his shed and after a few days of a bit of scraping and sanding the hives were ready for the new swarms.


Come sun down Thursday night, after all the foraging bees returned to their honey comb, the fire department’s temporary cardboard hives were closed up in their public park of residence and brought over to our apiary. Using the light of the van, we placed each of the 6 swarm boxes on top of their future homes and opened their hives in order to let them breath and ventilate.

Friday morning, when the temperature warmed up, Julian returned and together we transferred the bees to their new boxes.


Fireman may not be beekeepers but they do know how to put a colony into a box, and sometimes even include a few surprises.


After picking out the trash and kitchen scraps, each of the wax laid panels is simply carried over to their new hive.


With plenty of wax to stretch out in preparation for the queens egg laying the hard working bees are kept very busy.


Julian observes the newly relocated bees, and pays special attention to the swarms tail movements as an indication of the whereabouts of the Queen.


All brood cells, or panels filled with larva are gently placed in the middle of the hives to insure they receive a constant temperature in their development

We gave each of the colonies 2 or 3 more wax lined panels to keep busy for the next few weeks and once all the hives were transferred and placed into their new hive,we stepped back and watched as the bees flew abuzz in their acclimation process.

My Hands are Dirty

My Hands are Dirty


 IMG_3608 All in all, my trip to Ethiopia was a success. Now that I have returned to Madrid, where I have decided to call home for now, I have an abundance of work ahead of me. All the better, as I like to keep myself busy. There is nothing like shoveling dirt and planting gardens that keeps you connected to where you are.

Along with the Kenyan Top Bar hives I built before leaving we have plenty of beekeeping related work ahead of us as well. We’re currently in the process of restoring hives from a local beekeeping friend and waiting for the swarms to arrive. A cold front just passed and now that it seams spring and maybe even summer is here to stay, we will be be filling our hives shortly.

The 2 hectars of land belonging to Ramon’s family is also awaiting our labor, and we’re hoping that over the course of weekend encounters between friends and a few organized work seminars we can bring the land to life.

I managed to carry some American Heirloom seeds with me to Madrid, and after leaving them in the greenhouse 8 weeks ago now, I am proud to say, collections of cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, Mexican peppers, giant sunflowers, lettuces, celery, spinach and both sweet and Hopi corn are all in the ground. I’ll be even prouder when I can share them with my Spanish friends but as for now I am just happy to get my hands dirty on a daily basis.

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Beekeeping In Madrid Underway

Beekeeping In Madrid Underway


I wasn’t kidding, Anyone anywhere can be a beekeeper.

After 4.5 months of wonderful time spent between friends and family in beautiful landscapes across the United States, I arrived back to Madrid, Spain Tuesday morning still in time for some morning tapas of Spanish egg and potato tortilla garnished with a sauted green pepper and accompanied by the typical garlic toast and olive oil tomato marmalade. Oh yeah, and a glass of morning wine to break the jet leg.

Though I already miss the good times spent with loved ones back home, there’s something about Spain that just feels right.

I’ve jumped right back into the Spanish dialogue of day to life without much of  problem, though friends are eager to get there practice in and I welcome as well as encourage vocabulary sessions and joke telling in English as they come. My head is of course swimming between all the new and old contacts of great people I have around me, and I am currently going through the Spanish Synchronization process of reconnecting with all my friends on this side of the Atlantic. Smart phones, WIFI signals, and personal laptops make this all a breeze, the secret is creating the time to make it all happen.

After 2 days and a night spent in Ramon’s family’s apartment in Madrid, we made our way out to La Parcela, his family’s rural home in San Martin de La Vega, 35 kilometers  (about 22 miles) southwest of Madrid, and have been quite busy since.


The majority of our time has been spent hauling wood. Though its NOTHING like the cold where I most recently came from back in Minneapolis, Minnesota, nights out here get a bit chilly and it’s oh so  nice to have a fire to warm up this big ceramic Spanish castle.

Many years ago Ramon’s Father bought 2 hectares of land, 20,000 square meters (almost 4 acres), down the valley from La Parcela, with the hopes of one day turning it into agriculture land. In the many years between the valley itself, for its relative closeness to the city has become a hub for resource digging, cement and stone the two most prized. Though the family land has remained untouched,  some of the neighboring land is nothing but quarries, filled with leftover laborer tools. Not the prettiest sight to say the least.


Regardless, there happens to be quite a bit of abandoned property as well, filled with dead fruit trees and lumber making for great fire wood. In a stack of abandoned lumber we also happened to come across what in my eyes is a gold mine. A stack of 30 cm, 24 cm and 20 cm wide, 3 meter long boards. Just perfect for the Beehive prototype building we have in front of this coming week.


There’s a bit more organization of the tools and the workspace to be done, as well as some sketches and conversions to be calculated, but all in all I couldn’t be more satisfied with whats been accomplished in the past 6 days since I’ve been back. I have a good feeling about all the work yet to come, and as we continue to organize our makeshift greenhouse this afternoon, I’ll continue to dream of all the bees we’ll be attracting here shortly.