On Building an Observation Hive for Beekeeping

As you may or may not know, I keep bees. I’ve been interested in the hobby of beekeeping for a long time — my grandfather had 20-plus hives on his farm in Wisconsin when I was coming up. My brother and I often helped him harvest the honey each summer; a great job for young boys — and great fun. So it seems, once beekeeping gets in your blood, it’s there to stay.

I belong to a great urban beekeeping support group, a Los Angeles-based organization that goes by the name of Backwards Beekeepers. “Backwards” because in contrast to commercial beekeepers, we tend our bees with very minimal interference on behalf of the beekeeper. Instead, we let the bees call the shots. For the most part, this works out just fine for both the bees and the beekeepers.

Over the past year or so, the organization had been steadily growing and currently boasts more than 550 members. Because of this rapid growth, however, some of the group’s resources can be hard to come by. Observation hives, for example.

We only have one observation hive for the group—and that one is frequently out on loan. Now I see that as a good thing, because it means a lot of new people get exposed to beekeeping through talks, lectures, and other public events. But it can certainly be frustrating if you need an observation hive to do a talk, lecture, or some other public event.

And since I have two such talks in my near future, today, I decided to build my own observation hive.

Sunday Project: Observation Hive

It’s nothing too fancy (and now that this first one is done, I have a few ideas on how to improve the design), but for now it does what it needs to.


Written by Tom Fassbender

An amateur hobbyist, expert generalist, and outdoor enthusiast who recently traveled around the world with his family.



An observation hive is a small hive that the beekeeper uses to observe the bees. Sometimes they’re large, but this one is small, designed to hold only a single frame from a hive. I used it a few times to give lectures at schools about bees. The kids loved watching the bees in action, and the frame even had two drones and an empty queen cell, neither of which many people ever have the privilege of seeing.

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