There has been no major technological innovation in beekeeping since October 5, 1853. As a result, beekeeping still remains a very labor intensive practice where rising labor costs leave little room for profit. Thus hobbyists are responsible for a relatively large proportion of beehives in existence. Like the surging craft beer industry, the passion associated with hobbyist is yielding the first major innovations in over 160 years.
Getting the most publicity, the Flow Hive is nearly a household name. While I am very excited to see attempts at technological innovation, there are many shortcomings that will prevent me from trying these hives out in my own apiary. I’ll save that discussion for another post.
HiveHaven from New Zealand is doing amazing work to innovate beekeeping. They are turning HPDE from recycled bottles into 3-D printer feedstock (“ink”) and creating cutting edge hive designs. A major benefit of this material is that it can be washed and sterilized in the instance of foulbrood appearing in the apiary.
Have you ever wondered why bees build comb in the manner that they do? Hexagons are the most efficient pattern to fill a two dimensional space. Honeybees were able to figure out over 34 million years of evolution. Humans integrated that wisdom into products that need to maximize surface area like the catalytic converters in cars and wood stoves.
More importantly, HiveHaven also focuses on producing hives for other types of bees. Remember that New Zealand was forced to make a economics-driven decision whether to continue importing clover seed for pastures every year, or importing a bumble bee to pollinate and produce their own seed. The large mouthparts of honeybees prevent effective pollination of the tiny clover flowers. Mason, orchard and bumbles bees play a vital but largely unappreciated ecological role here in the US as well.
Now HiveHaven has completed the circle by taking the innovations bred from the geometric wisdom of bees, and applying back to those bees. In addition to the standard hexagonal comb, they provide hexagonal hives that reflect the natural tendency of bees to build upward. Finally some technology for solitary bee husbandry!