In 2003 my wife finally relented and allowed me to install an observation hive in the house. To make it more manageable I built a rather large one, 8 medium frames tall and one frame wide to allow all frames to be seen. It has been a wonderful experience for the children and I’ve learned many things from it in just the short time we have had it. The construction is fairly simple using standard hardware and 2×4 pine lumber using plans from Beesource as a guide (though they were heavily modified). Construction may seem a bit heavy duty (note the padlocks and thick frame), but it is secure against children, cats, dogs, and makes my wife feel more secure about it.
Plans for this observation hive are available here.
The bees enter and exit the hive though a clear 1″ ID tube through the wall. While bees will travel though tubes many feet long, shorter is better. The tube on this hive is about 1 foot long and exits on the side of the house not frequented by people (though we did have a dog that routinely slept just feet from the entrance.)
The hive’s entrance.
Also visible in the above picture is the hinge by which the hive is attached to the wall. I used large hinges intended for use on heavy fence gates which allows the hive to fold back against the wall if needed and makes the hive relatively easy to move out of the house for maintenance. I also built a stand which allows the hive to be free standing so it can be shown at fairs or other venues.
The feeder is a simple design that allows sugar water to be changed without opening the hive and makes the jar secure so it can’t be spilled. It is a slightly larger version of the one I used on a small single frame demonstration hive I use for demonstrations at schools. It is similar to the entrance feeder but doesn’t have many of the problems the normal entrance feeder. (It is far from the true entrance so robbing isn’t a problem and poor weather access is also not a problem.)
The hive is kept indoors all year long and the bees seem to do quite well in it. Surprisingly the warmth in the house doesn’t confuse them and cause them to fly in weather too cold, or raise large amounts of brood during the winter.