The open source solution to the bee colony collapse problem

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bees network

Last year, a third of honeybee colonies in the United States quite literally vanished. Commercial honey operations, previously abuzz with many thousands of bees, fell suddenly silent, leaving scientists and beekeepers alike scratching their heads. The reasons remain mostly a mystery for what is called Colony Collapse Disorder—a disturbing development of the drying up of beehives throughout the industrialised world.

Unfortunately, there's a lot more to the problem than simply running out of honey. Bees are one of the most abundant pollinators in the natural world. They are the unsung, unpaid facilitators of human agricultural practices and have been for as long as we have sewn seeds. Their disappearance would spell disaster for our food supply, with some estimating our species lasting only four years on this planet without them. So, what can be done?

Open Source Beehives from Open Tech Forever on Vimeo.

This is a question the organisations Open Tech Forever and Fab Lab Barcelona have been wrestling with. Their answer is a collaborative, open source effort called the Open Source Beehives project. Their partnership has generated the creation of two beehive designs that can be freely downloaded (and 3D printed) and filled with innovative sensors to log and track bee colony health using the Smart Citizen kit.

The Colorado Top Bar (version 3.0) is being fabricated this week, and the Warré hive has active colonies being tested in Barcelona, Paris, and Brussels. The aim of the project is to create a mesh network of data-generating honey bee colonies for local, national, and international study of the causes and effects of Colony Collapse Disorder. The team hope to awaken a responsible backyard beekeeping revolution while improving our understanding of honey bee health in industrialised countries and promoting their recovery.

The project is looking for collaborators to help with sensor design and test the hives, especially in areas of the southern hemisphere currently experiencing spring (in South America, southern Australia, and southern Africa). A Kickstarter campaign will be launched in the next few months, so please sign up to the mailing list and follow the Twitter feed @OSBeehives to stay informed. Other ways you can help inform others about and work to solve the problem of Colony Collapse Disorder and the Open Source Beehives Project:

  • Learn more and share with your friends
  • Review the designs online and give feedback
  • Become a backyard beekeeper
  • Plant bee forage in your community
  • Donate to the OSBH project


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Open Tech Forever (OTF) is dedicated to developing new and improved, open source versions of modern and cutting-edge technologies. In the open source spirit, we create free, online, high quality educational resources demonstrating how to understand, redesign, and replicate our products.


That's a "real nifty" hive. But the same shape could be built with a table saw and standard fasteners, using a lot less plywood.

Hey shopgrunt - you may be correct, but the wasted material is minimal, and the fabrication time and precision are highly optimised using this process.

Not buying it. "CNC everything" is usually the worst case approach to design for manufacture.

If you're interested in Colony Collapse Disorder, I would take a look at this 10 minute video:

Interesting as a lesson in construction. As far as using less plywood with a more 'traditional' design, it looked like they used one sheet to make one box. I doubt you'd get any higher efficiency with a different approach. I would be more concerned with the stackability of the design - it is common practice to stack many boxes of bees on trucks and ship them to where they are needed. This design does not look like it could be used in that manner. The conclusion is that this is not intended for mass industry use, but small quantities used by hobby-ests (sp?) for research.

This process of shipping bees around large geographic areas is widely considered to be one of the root causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. I'd highly recommend watching 'More than Honey' if you ever get the chance.

Causes by insecticides . . .

at we have experimented with open-source beehives with sensors since 2008, take a look at the projects there,

have a nice day

I watched a video somewhere, that bees use something like electro magnetic something something to navigate. Our cell towers scramble their guidance system. just a thought. sorry don't have a link to reference.

Bees use the position of the sun to navigate. That's what the waggle dance is, it's the bees telling each other what angle to go away/toward the sun to get to their destination.

I keep bees.
CCD is WAY overblown...
Problems with losing hives are in descending order:

1: Varroa Destructor
Just like it sounds... Destroys hives...
Worst thing to happen to bees.
Only New Zealand has escaped it so far.

2. Small Hive Beetle
Unless you like maggots in your honey comb...
Can wipe out a hive.

3. Wax Moth
Is usually able to be controlled by the bees but if the colony gets weak it can wipe it out.

4. European and American Foulbrood

5. Pesticides.
This really depends on where your hives are kept.
If you have your hives in the country a farmer spraying will kill em all.
But believe it or not in a city your neighbor spraying one plant usually will have little or no impact.
Maybe GMO corn with built in pesticide is an issue but that would take conclusive testing of which there is none.

# 6 Intensive hive management.
"Professional" bee keepers move their hives often to polinate.
The California almond crop requires a huge quantity of bees to get polinated.
Melon, cucumber and such also require bees.
Professional beekeepers will move their hives to follow the need.
Flatbed truckloads full of bee hives on pallets are unloaded via forklift to provide these pollination services.
Moving these hives puts stress on the colony.
Sure in the past you could do this and the hive would be ok.
But with all the other stress on hives today this is a recipe for disaster.
Moving hives often from state to state also gives a great opportunity for the spread of disease and parasites.

The fact is as follows:
90% off ALL "wild" honey bees are gone.
(honey bees are not native to the Americas BTW)
Look at the clover in your yard..
Look at other flowers...
Mostly all you will see are large bumble bees and some flys...
Used to be honey bees but with all the issues listed above the wild population is pretty decimated.
As go the wild population so goes managed bees.
Varroa Destructor is bee enemy #1
Fix that and over75% of the bee issues will go away.

I have been a coder for 50 years and I was a beekeeper for over 20 years. I had about 1,000 hives. Your hive is real cute but:

1. expensive to build and takes too long. I used 3/8 exterior plywood recycled from food canneries here in Calif.

2. There is a Federal Law in the US and most other countries that the frames must be removable. There is only a tolerance of 1/8 inch. If you do not get this tolerance perfect, too small, and they will stick propolis and stick the frames, too much tolerance and they will add comb. The frames hold the comb. Also, the slanted sides will cause the bees to add comb in there. What this means is that the frames cannot be removed to get the honey out or for the Bee Inspectors to inspect the hives for disease.

The legs are the most stupid think I have ever seen. They will rot and the hive will be destroyed. I usually took 70 hives on one truck load, that design could not even be loaded on a truck.

The linseed oil is will not preserve the hive box from rotting. I know that the design team is from the eastern US because what they designed is for a permanent site. In agriculture, you must be able to move hives quickly from one pollination site to another.

My bees pollinated the following crops:

1. Almonds = must be pollinated or no nuts
2. Cherries
3. Oranges
4. Alfalfa seed = again pollination is essential
5. Lima beans for seed = not required but you get more production
6. Onions and Garlic = especially to produce seed

This is called migratory bee keeping. The beekeeper must have his bees at the farm at exactly the right time. As a previous respondent gave said, there are a whole list of diseases that impact bees. One, called American Foul Brood, not only kills the brood being raised in the hive but then spreads to the other hives as well and kills them dead too. When a Bee Inspector finds such hives, he burns them immediately and does not need to ask the owner to do it.

America is the pioneer in modern scientific beekeeping. These people should contact their local Agricultural Commissioner for more information, also the Dadant Company on the Internet because they are real pioneers in this, and also contact the agricultural university in their state for more information.

I know they are well meaning but totally and dangerously off track. I highly recommend contacting the scientist at the University of California in Davis, CA. They have already done what these folks are proposing.

Hi Lee - thanks for your thoughts - I'm one of the founders of the OSBH project.

To answer some of your concerns:

-We know about the legal issues. We have been made aware of a new device inspectors can use to check hives without removing the frames. Also, due to the automated cutting of our CTB's, the slots will fit perfectly every time.

-The hive in this video is version 2 of our hive. Version 3 has redesigned leg mounts that are much more robust.

-We have reached out to numerous University departments (including Davis) and received no responses. Perhaps if you have any contacts you could help us in this area.

-We have deliberately built this version to be a local, backyard beekeeper style top bar. There is also a stackable Warre design available on our site (have a look). Our interest is not in supporting commercial beekeeping practices, but to enable local, biodynamic beekeeping.

Im not sure why you think we are 'dangerously' off track...perhaps you could elaborate?

Great project. For those who want more information on using a top-bar hive, you can go here:

An excellent site for a minimalist approach to beekeeping. I wish I had space to start a hive and help out.


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Apparently, a monk who had been a bee keeper at an abbey for 40 years claims he had been collecting 100 gallons of honey a week until cell phone towers were constructed on the back of the property. Within weeks all of his bees died until he discovered a small area near the base of a hill where he could not get service. Once he moved his hives to that that particular area, the bees once again began to thrive and reproduce.

Is it possible that Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is created by the micro-wave frequency omitted by cell-phone towers? Apparently, when a cell-phone is placed within a hive, the queen either dies or moves. Research also demonstrates that bees do not come within a mile or so of cell-phone/WIFI towers.

If this is the case will people be willing to give up their cell-phones, and will cell-phone providers, making billions each year from their service be willing to prevent the devastation of our food chain? Apparently, there is more to the cell-phone micro-wave frequency than most are willing to realize;


Interesting project but possibly a waste of time. We all know were the main problems are coming from (pesticides and herbicides in general, nicotinoids in particular, microwave cell and WiFi communication and data signals, etc...

BTW, can't study the plans, the site ( makes my browser crash (Firefox on FreeBSD). Will try with another browser, but why don't you make those plans available with a no fancy simple link to a directory with pdf's or drawing files?


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