DIY Beehive for Stingless Bees
We have been wanting to practice bee keeping for a long time. In the U.S. we read books, watched videos and even had the opportunity to visit a beekeeper in Kentucky who gave us a full ticket tour of his farm and hives. We learned a lot and were excited to put our education to use. When we arrived in Costa Rica we were hesitant to build hives because the honey bees here are the very aggressive, Africanized type. Without having practiced on a more docile bee we were not certain that we could handle this project. One day while searching our forest for a tree to fell for our cabin we came across a hive entrance in a tree that looked like horn section of a trumpet played in Whoville. Tiny insects were flying in and out and our builder told us that the honey that these bees make is super delicious and very expensive. We had never heard of stingless bees and quickly did our research.
In the tropical regions of the world there are many species of Stingless Bees or Apidae Meliponinae. Their aromatic honey has been sought after by man for centuries by many cultures, the Mayans being one example. These bees are much smaller in size than your average honey bee, produce smaller amounts of honey and lack a stinger. In fact their only defense seems to be to swarm and get stuck in your eyes, ears and hair.
Hives can often be found in tree hollows, old logs, holes in the ground and even between cement blocks. The bees build an entrance made out of a mixture of beeswax and plant matter that protrudes from the hive. In the past people have moved hives by transferring whole tree trunks to access the honey this resulted in damage to the hives. I built our hives using the instructions found at this site (Utrecht University – Tobago Hive). It is based on separating the brood chamber from the honey pots so that we can collect honey without damaging the colony. This ensures that we will continue to have honey on a long term basis and that our bees will bee-safe.
The Brood Chamber, the Honey Chamber and the Holding Tray are the 3 main parts of the hive.
The brood chamber has inside dimensions of: length 11cm, width 13cm and height 13cm. There is a 2.5cm slit in the chamber that is 2.5cm off of the floor that should match up with the honey chamber. You should also make a snug fitting lid for this chamber as seen in the picture.
The honey chamber has inside dimensions of: length 40cm, width 13cm and height 7cm. It requires a ¼ to 3/8 inch entry hole at the front, a 2.5cm slit that matches up with the brood chamber and a snug fitting lid.
The holding tray should allow the brood chamber and the honey chamber to fit snuggly inside of it.
If you place your hive in a location that is not protected by the elements I suggest adding a roof of some sort, like I did here with plastic roofing material. They need to have dappled sunlight so under a tree is best. Since these hives are relatively small you can attach them to a fence post or hang them under the eaves of a structure. I wanted to place our hives in various areas of our farm which receive optimum conditions for the bees so I used an old fence post and put it at a height that should bee non-accessible to possible honey thieves, such as the kinkajous.
After placing your hives check them every couple of weeks and document when your new bees arrive. Then, to harvest honey remove the honey chamber from the hive and with a sharp knife open the top of the honey pots inside, flip over the chamber into a clean collection reservoir. Our bee’s haven’t moved in yet so this is unpracticed advice but I will follow up on this project as it progresses.
If you have any comments or additional information about stingless bees please post below.