Hive-Minded: Modern Designs for the Urban Bee

Categories: Design, Technology
Philip de los Reyes

Philip de los Reyes didn't have to read about the Bay Area's obsession with urban beekeeping in the New York Times: it was impossible not to notice that nearly every backyard, roof deck, and patio he visited had a newly acquired hive. The freelance industrial designer, who has also worked with furniture, goods, and even technology, took no issue with the act of beekeeping itself, but rather with the design. 

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"People put a lot of thought into their homes," de los Reyes explained. "They are full of carefully chosen pieces. Their backyards are landscaped. Then they add the hive, and here's this clunky structure with boxes that don't even stack properly."

Philip de los Reyes
In recent years, designers have focused on every aspect of people's lives; even the most commonplace household item, like a whisk, has received a makeover, and yet hives remained unchanged. De los Reyes' experience with honey had been limited to dabbling in jars, but he noticed there was little variety from hive to hive. Research confirmed there are six modern artificial beehives, and among them the Langstroth reigns supreme. Used by over 75 percent of beekeepers, the Langstroth has been the most popular for over 100 years, but de los Reyes continually heard about design flaws, including hives so top-heavy they proved unstable.

De los Reyes was interested in the aesthetic, but after consulting with professional and amateur beekeepers alike, he began to play with the details. "I wanted to mitigate what hinders them," he said, "so ergonomics were a factor. This wasn't just a piece I wanted to show people, but something utilitarian."

Philip de los Reyes
The result is a sleek, updated Langstroth hive. Interlocking boxes incorporate louvered handles on the exterior, and alternating interior brood and super frames resemble tabbed file folders. The boxes are interchangeable and expandable. The queen bee is separated from the workers, ensuring that the honeycombs remain free of eggs.

The design is still a concept, but the hive has garnered interest since de los Reyes, who lives in San Francisco, first put images on his website. He is certainly open to creating a saleable product, but until then, the public response is encouraging, and he hopes to hear from more prospective users.

"People want to take it home, and that's certainly a compliment."

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Yet another plastic design from someone who presumes superior expertise without any knowledge of the needs of the intended residents of his "architecture", and without any personal experience in the husbandry of these residents.


Why do you THINK Langstroth hives have remained unchanged for nearly 200 years, despite the efforts of untold numbers of tinkerers (most highly skilled and experienced beekeepers, many with backgrounds in design and engineering) to make improvements?  Other tools used in beekeeping have changed and been steadily improved, so one cannot dismiss the market segment as "change-resistant".


The reason is that bees can quickly show their acceptance, rejection, or indifference to new and novel ideas, even absconding from real estate choices that prove to be unwise.  At best, bees can be said to grudgingly accept plastic frames and boxes, while they enthusiastically thrive in wooden boxes and on wooden frames.

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