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Hives: building a buzz

Creating the perfect home for a busy colony is an important business...

The last century has seen a general decline in the number of active hives, with estimates suggesting Britain's 100,000 non-commercial hives will have to be joined by up to 33,000 more to stem the decline of the honey bee.

So hives are disappearing?

Well, the good news is that since 2007 the number of people keeping bees has risen by 200%* and notions of what a beekeeper looks like are changing. With many beekeepers in their 60s, honey producers are investing in the future with beekeeping apprenticeships, channelling knowledge to a new generation. In Greater London there are almost 5,000 beekeepers who are closer to a tube station than to country meadows, with community projects and commercial premises devoting space to hives. From city rooftops to country gardens, hives are popping up all over the place as more small-scale beekeepers are boosting the bee population. We're proud to be part of the picture; our Pollenation hives are dotted around a truly diverse set of habitats, and we can't wait to learn where our next intake of beekeepers will be keeping theirs.

But a hive's a hive, right?

Actually, no. As this army of beekeepers becomes more diverse, so do their hives. Besides the good old Langstroth design, eagle-eyed beekeepers might spot Warré hives when out and about. Also known as the 'people's hive', this nature-mimicking design was created in the mid-19th century by French abbot Émile Warré to minimise disruption during honey-collection. Less common, the bee-centric Sun Hive is the ultimate organic form. It's woven to match the shape bees build themselves and is the preferred choice of 'natural beekeepers' who take a hands-off approach to their colonies. It's a far cry from the 'poly hives' (made from expanded polystyrene or EPS) that launched into production in the 1970s. Flow hives are a more recent development – plastic honeycombs can be harvested at the turn of a key (causing no small amount of controversy amongst traditional beekeepers). Some beekeepers dispense with hives altogether, homing their bees in slots carved into living trees.

What about Pollenation hives?

Our own hives, which were tested over a season by our experienced 'pioneer' beekeepers from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), are based on the trusty National model that updated the Langstroth design. Each hive is hand-built in Southend using reclaimed wooden pallets from our Makery in Essex, and treated with bee-friendly waterproofing to protect the wood from the elements. Some of our hives incorporate state-of-the-art hive-monitoring technology, designed to keep an eye on the health and status of the colony. We believe it's the next generation of beehive and we're pleased to see our diverse community of Pollenation beekeepers thriving alongside their colonies.

*From 8,000 in 2007 to 25,000 in 2018 (source: BBKA)