DIY Beehive Stingless Bees

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.

13 comments on “DIY Beehive Stingless Bees”

  1. johnny Reply

    Nice work guys! We are outside of quepos and have 3 different mariola hives in various crumbling structures. Have tried countless methods to extract them with no luck. Any success on your end? Pura Vida.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      No Johnny we have not had any luck. I admit that we haven’t focused on the project this year but plan on more trials in 2014.

  2. H W L Reply

    where are you in Limon? My place is at Playa Negra, Talamanca. How goes the bee keeping? Thanks

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      G – That is our next step. We didn’t want to disturb any hives if we could avoid it. Tree tree that our biggest hive is in seems to be dying so it should be time. I will let you know how it goes.

  3. Galen Reply

    Any update on the hives? Have the bees moved in during the dry season? We’re looking at doing something similar.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Galen – We had a different type of bee move into every house we made. We have two of the house with the lid ajar to get them to move out.

  4. Robert Reply

    When you made the holding tray, brooding chamber and honey tray what kind of wood did you make it out of? Pochote or something else? Also, what kind of luck are you having with this setup? I saw a You Tube video of a guy in Costa Rica but he was using just a plain box that was similar to a shoe box. Here is the link http://youtu.be/s6K_t3G3lwc . Any help would be appreciated.

    • Kimberly Reply

      Robert – We used Laurel to make our boxes. We had extra so we used it, not because it is good for it or bees like it. We did not varnish or stain due to the possibility that the smell would drive the bees away. We made 3 hives and one was taken over by a different type of bee and the two others have stayed empty. Our next step will be to add honey to the others and see if the bees come. Everyone tells us to move our exisitng hive but we don’t want to disturb the bees.

  5. Rod Reply

    Are these stingless bees legal in the USA? I have been looking for providers to import them but a friend from mexico said he can get some in the country IF it is legal. Unfortunately Im not savyy online an cannot ook this information up. Thank you.

    • Kimberly Reply

      I’m not sure if they are legal but it is our opinion never to import a plant or animal into an environment in which it did not originate.

  6. carolyn tait Reply

    love this! can’t wait to hear more. you guys are doing such interesting stuff! <3

  7. kim deprenger Reply

    I am here in Yucatan Mexico and 2 years ago ran across a campesino with his hives. He taught me the whole process including how he processed it all at the end and bottled it for sale. He had to give them water every day. In Ethiopia the hives are hollowed out logs that are up in a tree. Not sure the whole process there. Beekeeping is fascinating. Anxious to hear how your project goes.

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