The Distributed Hexa-Hive Village
a community of experimental urban beehives for Bees and Humans.
The Distributed Hexa-Hive Village invites beekeepers to become part of Melliferopolis community and to host a colony of bees in a Hexa-Hive in their local environment. The hives are placed in public or semi-public places. They are conceptually connected by becoming part of a global community.
The Distributed Hexa-Hive Village is a long term collaborative experiment to test the hive design under different conditions (climate, environment, bee-races), but also to explore the collective approach of Melliferopolis and its growing community.
The distributed HHV is an ongoing project.
In 2018, the first two Hexa-Hives were sent across Europe. One is currently in Bremen, and one is in Bristol.
Hexa-Hive in Bremen:
Dr. Dorothea Brückner is a honey bee researcher at the Honeybee Research Unit of University of Bremen, Germany. Her bees are installed at a bee-yard at the university campus and together with her team, she set up the Hexa-Hive on that site.
The hive was populated with a small swarm, after sensors had been installed in order to monitor the changes inside the box.
Hexa-Hive in Bristol:
A first report by Charli Clark.
The Hexa-hive has had an interesting journey over the past couple of years, on its arrival from Helsinki I started by taking it to the local beekeeper’s association to get some feedback about the design and any improvements I should/could make. There was quite a bit of interest in the design and only a minor problem spotted with the size of the bee space between the top and bottom of the hive so that was good and I hoped that if not that summer, then the next we’d have bees in it.
The Hexa-hive arrived in Doynton, a rural village near Bristol, in April 2018 and in May I had a sad start to the summer when my queen unexpectedly died (although she was 4 years old, she was wonderful). Luckily, the bees made a new queen with her eggs and she seemed to build up the hive nicely. Sadly though, it seemed unlikely they would swarm that year due to the size of the hive. I had been put on the local beekeepers swarm list, however many people lost hives that year over winter so it was not meant to be.
In 2019, summer started with a jam-packed hive ready to swarm. Instead of relying on catching a swarm, I moved a queen cell and some bees into the Hexa-Hive. All seemed to be well and the bees seemed to be building up and then the wasps attacked. I was struck by how quickly they reduced the hive and was having to add food to keep them going, which was tricky due to the difference in frame shape between hives. In the end I moved them to a small nucleus hive box with the possibility to shrink the entrance to stop the wasps from entering, but the bees still seemed to be failing. When a queen in a neighbouring hive died at the end of summer I decided to merge the hives together and they survived the winter, fewh!
All photos by Charli Clark, details of the Hexa-Hive improvements
Now we are in 2020 and I am going to wait for a swarm to arrive. I have made some changes to allow me to help the hive better if something where to go wrong again. First, I have changed the bottom to a small metal mesh to give the bees some ventilation. I have also added a landing platform so that they have something to land on in the wind and I will be plugging up 2 of the 3 holes if/when the bees arrive to ensure they can defend the entrance. I have also changed the frames to straight bars, like those from a top bar hive so they can be placed in other hives to help build up or assist if there are problems again. Finally, I have added a metal cover and a layer of insulation to the roof to ensure that the rain doesn’t get in and they don’t get too hot. Now we will wait and hope that the bees arrive.
Alongside looking after honeybees, Charli is also interested in how they use the environment they are placed in and their food preferences. During 2019-2020, Charli created Loads of Pollen, an oil and beeswax painting consisting of 12 separate canvases, one for each month of the year, recording the activity of one beehive through colour and form. Every week, dropped pollen loads were collected from a tray beneath the hive. The pollens were sorted, identified under a microscope, and the colour and plant species of each load was recorded. Over the year, these samples built a story of the hive and the bee to plant relationship. Each canvas has been created through layering, with each layer representing pollens collected by the bees during that month, from January to December. Some canvases are thick with pollen and others are empty or contain minimal amounts due to hive activity, e.g. in August there was little pollen collected as the queen died or swarmed and a new queen formed. This work aims to increase understanding and admiration for the amount and diversity of plants used as a food source by these tiny but significant creatures of our ecosystem. For more information about Charli’s work please visit www.charliclark.co.uk where you can watch films explaining this project in more detail and see more of Charli’s work.