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Philips's beehive concept - an urban home for the 21st Century bee


November 9, 2011

The Urban Beehive concept by Philips (Image: Philips)

The Urban Beehive concept by Philips (Image: Philips)

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The collapse of honey-bee colonies is bad news. Seventy-four out of 100 different crop types that account for 90 percent of the global food output are pollinated by bees, but the direct cause of the phenomenon called the Colony Collapse Disorder remains unknown. Efforts are being made to bring the bee population back to a healthy level with city councils around the world encouraging the 3000 year old practice of keeping bees in cities. While not proclaiming to solve large scale crop pollination problems, Philips has turned its know-how to the equation with this futuristic concept catering for the needs of the urban beekeeper.

The Urban Beehive concept is a part of the Microbial Home Project - Philips's effort at creating a domestic ecosystem of innovative design solutions to cleaning, energy, human waste, lighting and food preservation. The house is viewed as a biological machine capable of filtering, processing and recycling what we would normally think of as waste.

The bees enter the glass pane mounted beehive via an entry tunnel located just above a welcoming pollen-filled flowerpot. On the inside the bees encounter a set of honeycomb structures that they use to lay their larvae, as well as store honey and pollen. If you'd rather not meet the bees in person, you can simply watch them toil away safe in the knowledge that there is a gradient-tinted glass barrier between you and the laborious critters (only the orange wavelength of light which is invisible to bees gets through the glass). And if you feel adventurous enough to actually remove the glass cover and collect some honey, you can calm the bees down by releasing smoke into the hive at the pull of a cord.

Philips' idea has one big advantage over the existing urban beekeeping solutions. Jason Neufeld's ceramic Bombus Shelters or the Beehouse from Omlet UK may be equally stylish and foolproof, but they have the drawback of requiring a backyard. To install the urban beehive, all you need is a window. That said, the Philips design is still at the concept stage.

Mr. Malya Peter, a beekeeper asked by Philips to evaluate some early renders of the concept, says the solution could be used for educational purposes but points out that it is not suitable for large scale honey production and that in the long run it would not be sustainable due to low mass of bees. For a sustainable colony (one that does not have to be fed with nectar) you need three kilograms of bees (one kilogram is 30 to 50 thousand insects). Also, regardless of the colony size, the hives need some maintenance at least once a year. This is not to say that the concept is unfeasible, but it may require slightly more skill and attention than the untrained amateur urban beekeepers may be able to offer.

We do see the merits of keeping bees in cities. It's a win-win situation. Bees get a cosy place to stay, the environment benefits from increased pollination, and the nature-deprived city dwellers get to observe the marvelous world of bees from their living rooms, which in itself provides great therapeutic value. And let's not forget the free honey.

It would certainly be interesting to see this idea turned into reality.

About the Author
Jan Belezina Formerly in charge of Engadget Poland, Jan Belezina's long time fascination with the advance of new technology has led him to become Gizmag's eyes and ears in Eastern Europe. All articles by Jan Belezina

what if your neighbor is allergic to bees?

Denis Klanac

the most likely largest cause of CCD is the use of bees to pollinate monocrops when they need vaiety to survive. and the transport of vast hives worldwide, spreads teh disease. agribusiness as usual is a defect, not a true gain... it is also one of the key reasons, medicine being the other, why we now have 7x more mouths to feed than in just 1900. and what they produce isn\'t food, it is frankenfood doesn\'t even taste or smell like food as it is not food. food is what our grannies ate.

Taz Delaney

Colony Collapse Disorder remains unknown only to those who have buried their heads up their arse and dont acknowledge that GMO crops from Monsanto have stuffed up this order.

Ulrich Duenzl

I believe the reason for the demise of so many bees around the world is the spraying called \"Chemtrails\" under the guise of Geo Engineering. What they\'re spraying from those jets contains Aluminum which is a toxin to any form of life whether animal, vegetable, insect, or human. These \'clouds\' come down over the land & get on or in water, trees, plants, us, and gets into our foods. This form of aluminum gets in the flowers & the bees get it on themselves; then take it to the hives where they unwittingly destroy the hive. For us it\'s even worse, as this causes...at the very least...memory loss which eventually destroys the brain through Alzheimers disease. Wake up people.

Steve Alvarez

i like the educated comments on this board. I watched the documentary \"Food Inc\" and \"King Corn\" on Netflix and learned a lot about the monopolys like Monsanto etc...

tampa florida

really cool looking bee hive though

tampa florida

Hmm, people suck on a general consensus...and they would make these bees life a living hell...constantly tapping on the glass, messing with them, torturing them...we would see another aspect of colony collapse...Bee neurosis! No...the average person needs to stay as far away from bees as possible...people will only screw things up. Let them beee!


Ed: Did people screw up dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, ect.? People are NOT unnatural. We are part of nature. We just need to learn to live with it, unlike other animals who operate instinctually. Mistakes we make are self correcting in that they lead to destruction, pain, and loss of life. It\'s all part of the learning process. Sometimes it takes centuries or eons. For example, government sucks the life out of society daily and then misdirects attention away from its parasitism with war propaganda and war. Every society has fallen into decay this way since recorded history. But we have yet to learn not to trust government but trust ourselves, i.e., to self govern. Someday society will \"grow up\" and stop submitting to governors and the lesson once learned will never be forgotten.


I agree with Ed. We have (real) hives ourselves, but living in AZ, we are getting ever more afraid of the hives being taken over by the Africanized bees. For the past 8 or 9 years, in Tucson, there have been nearly a dozen deaths each year from these bees . Yes, we DO keep a close watch on our hives, but I sometimes have nightmares about African bees. (until a few years ago I was always comfortable working in the gardens amongst the bees. Now, not so much. I\'ve completely turned over harvesting the honey to my husband, as he\'s the one who\'s insisting we keep our hives til the bitter end. But, disturbing the bees \'just for fun\' is NOT something one should do. They don\'t like it a bit, and even the most \'docile\' bees are likely to show their dislike of being disturbed. So, while the \'window box\' is a nice idea in theory, it is NOT something that can actually work. If anyone expects to harvest honey by this method, you would be lucky to get a tablespoon each year. Bees aren\'t pets.


@ Denis Klanac - what if your neighbor is allergic to bees?

If they are bastards, you hope they get stung and die.

The bee acted in self defence.

Mr Stiffy

umm... I love bees, but this concept seems ill-conceived. Its supposed to go in a window right? as cool as it would be to see whats going on in the hive, there are a number of issues with the design: -If you were to open it to extract what little excess honey you could take without starving the colony (or to provide medicine if the colony developed mites or some other disease), you would be opening it inside your house. Even with a smoker thats not a good idea, which leads me to -Using a smoker would be out of the question because it would set off your fire alarm. -Theres no way to separate the queen & brood from the honey if you did extract it. And lastly, -The colony would be very susceptible to swarming because of the cramped quarters.

Seriously, do people think about these things at all?...

Jenn Jackson
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