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preparing the beehives at the fablab in barcelona (march-april 2013)


fablab agenda

the Warré hive

the Warré Hive with movable frames

In a few days the “Intelligent Beehives” workshop will be hold in Valldaura. Meanwhile, Jonathan Minchin, John Rees and Ferran Masip, three students of the FabLab Academy, have been working for weeks on the actual physical beehives and the sensors that will be inside them.

It’s been a process of research to find and create the best prototype, modeling, printing and milling the parts for the final assembly; while circuits where printed, soldered, and lots of programming and testing was happening. There will be – at least – three final beehives, one to be placed in Valldaura, one to be placed on the rooftop of Iaac, and another to be shipped to Belgium, at OKNO.

conversation Annemie and Tomás:
A: As an April goal, we should have the two beehives in Valldaura & Brussels, with the new designs. Then from April to June we should endup with the advanced prototypes, either 3d printed or using organic materials.
I would like to make some tests for 'organic beehives', starting from plant seeds.
Seeds fascinate me, and there are so many different strange but wonderful designs and forms that we can take as input for a beehive design.
I would like to know:
- is it possible to scan with a 3D scanner a small seed from ± 10mm?
- is it than possible to 'blow up' the scan in the computer and magnify and modify the design?
- and as a third step laserprint the 'seed-design' in a big model (± 500mm x 500 mm or more)?
- and 3D print the design with organic material, as beeswax for example (or propolis)?

T: I think we can do the scan, lets see how much resolution we get, but there are options. We can 3d print it in normal materials. For the organic materials is one of the tasks for John, to research in the development of a print head for the kuka robot that might work with the wax coming from the bees, so I think is technically possible, but it will be part of the final development of the project until he finishes the academy.

3 dimensional temperature sensing in broodbox

presentation at Makers' Faire Rome, 3-6 october 2013, Palazzo dei Congressi

download the plans and documentation, open source:

25/08/2013 - making the OS Warre public. A conversation with Tomás Diez.
A: Plan B. Sounds as pretty commercial stuff. Nothing against it, but this is not at all in my interest. I want to go for the survival of the bees in a scientific way, studying the colonies and therefore developing observation hives and monitoring systems. What do the people of Open Tech Forever want to do exactly? Making OpenSource hives in their Fab Labs, or setting up a bee keeping business as Plan B? I don't understand it very well …
T: Is not as plan Bee, the idea behind OTF (Open Tech Forever) is more about the real concern about the beekeeping. Open Source says everything about what OTF wants to do, same as Fab Lab, just opening tools, but with the validation of science with people like you. I agree that plan Bee is pretty commercial, I just got it from a friend, just looking to other initiatives, besides the commercialization there is a community building and communication around the project, I think thats the value, and if added to science is great.
A: Yes, true. Building a community is nice, but it asks for continuous input (from the initiator). I understood you said that OTF wanted to start a business as the Plan Bee. Of course their approach, making hardware with OS designs, is very valuable. Good would be that a community of users and contributors builds up itself, without someone to be responsible to bring them together. Therefore it's of course very important to have good (social) communication tools. A custom designed app?
T: It is exactly about opening the project for communities of bee keepers, and linking it to Fab Labs and OTF-alike organizations. There has been a lot of interest on the project here (in Tokyo-international Fab Lab meeting) in the meeting of the Fab Lab community, the value of it is inmense, we have some bee keepers in the network. But I agree, sustainability is crucial, and community building more important. I would like to keep the same spirit of Smart Citizen, meaning that is not a product, but a platform or framework for users to generate value around certain aspects of the environment or nature.

open tech forever: open source Kenyan beehive

05/09/2013 :
annemie: I am surely interested to do this co-tutoring for the Fab Academy, concerning the beehive design and related items.
What do you have in mind, how do you see the collaboration? Is there a fixed programme&schedule for the Thesis-students?
Do you see this more as a 'mentor', giving context, or rather as very practical instructions?
tomas: For me the time line is:
- September - December: defining clear goals. Continue working with the initial design. Adaptation of the shield for Smart Citizen. Selection of sensors to be included. Deliverable: a pre-project proposal, written + prototypes
- January - June: Project development. Prototyping and testing different models. Finalising the electronics. Building an online platform for online beekeeping. Deliverable: Written thesis (short format) + working prototype
Presentation at Fab10 in Barcelona
Students: Jon Minchin and John Rees
Supervisors: Annemie Maes and Tomas Diez
Evaluation committee: Neil Gershenfeld
We are still working on formalisms of the program, will keep you updated
In relation with the role, I see it as a mentor, from the point of view of the bee expertise you have + the actual knowledge in the possible technology to be implemented

open tech forever, Denver USA - kenian hive timelapse animation

github for

smart citizen kit

smart citizen kit



thursday 11/4

  introduction to bee monitoring (keynote)
  introduction to the Intelligent Beehive project
  introduction to the production of Intelligent Beehives at the fablab
  installation of the OpenStructures Warré hives at Valldaura (search for best place)

friday 12/4

  about sensors and smart citizen shields for beehives
  install sensors in the Warré hives
  connect the sensors to the internet
  map the hives on the smart citizen map
  reconnect the Ciutadella beehives

saturday 13/4

  map the vegetation of the foraging areas at Valldaura
  map the vegetation of the foraging areas at Fablab BCN and Ciutadella
  build a herb spiral with melliferous and medicinal plants (permaculture)

day 1, thursday 11/4
I can for sure give a quick introduction on bees and beekeeping before we install and populate the new hives. At OKNO in Brussels, we worked as well with regular beekeeping methods, as with sustainable and experimental beekeeping methods, this since 5 years. Of course it went from regular towards experimental, and now we end up with a complex scientific project in which green high tech teams up with nature in a cradle to cradle bee monitoring project: the intelligent beehive.
I can give an overview introduction with slides and discussion. This could take up to 2 hours, with questions and answers and discussions.
The overview of the 'intelligent beehive' (or Bee-o-ICT) project can make the switch to the presentation of the work of the fablabbers and the hives (+ sensors?) they produced till now in the lab: how and why … how they worked to make the Warré beehive (first phase of the Intelligent Beehive project) and we can discuss our goal (the intelligent beehive) and explain the project. My friend Luc Steels (who is also one of the initiators of the project) will be there too. He is professor at PRBB in Barcelona, and he can explain the more scientific part of the project.
This could be the first (long) half day.
In the afternoon we can install the new beehives at Valldaura, populate them with the bees.
Do we get the bees that day, or do we have to get them before?

day 2, friday 12/4
We can introduce the sensors in the hive and connect the sensors to the network and map them online on the smart citizen map
We can make a map of the trees in a 5km radius around the place of the hives (the bees' foraging areas). We can compare with what is available in the foraging areas in Barcelona, around the rooftop of the fablab, where the other hive will be.We can map the trees at Valldaura and also make a map of existing wild plants and herbs.We can design small ecosystems with the plant families following the permaculture system of the 7 layers, and see how we can plant them together the next day.
Do we have to buy plants, or do we have enough melliferous plants at Valldaura?
If we have to buy plants, when do we do it?

day 3, saturday 13/4
Planting day, make a melliferous herb spiral.
We can make a medicinal herbal garden, a herb spiral or work on another interesting plan to add bee-plants to the Valldaura nature.
I can make a list of herbs and trees which have a specific value for honeybees.
These are a few databases in english where we can make use of to design our ecosystems of edible and medicinal plants:
And this is a very usefull database, but it is in dutch: and

I have several films on permaculture as well as a few good films on bees, the actual status of bees (endangered, varroa), research and scientific solutions.
We can show these films in the evenings, outside if weather is OK?

workshop opensource beehives at Valldaura, part01 (april 10/11/12 - 2013)

During the next few days Valldaura will hold the workshop “Intelligent Beehives”, the first part of a project on the monitorization of beehives through sensors while exploring different materials and appliances on the beehive itself. The idea is to consider the bees themselves, their behavior and reactions, as sensors of the environment, the quality of air, waters, density of plants – a sensor of nature and a healthy environment.

So these days we have been preparing for the workshop. Our current interns, mainly Mariek Rouze, Evan Jones and Juan Gonzalo amongst them, have been building a natural structure with the surrounding materials. This structure will be used, when the day arrives, to give shadow and refresh the area where the first beehive will be placed. That will be extremely important and valuable during the hot, dry summer days.

Annemie Maes, from OKNO, a Belgian non-profit organization, has visited Valldaura for a few days and conducted the first part of the “Intelligent Beehives” workshop. Through that workshop, the interns have learned the bases of apiculture, beekeeping, and the nature of bees in general.

FabLab Academy students (Jonathan Minchin, John Rees and Ferran Masip) have been working for weeks, creating and building a replicable and adapted to the open-grid beehive. They built three of them, one to be located on the rooftop of Iaac, one for Valldaura, and one for ONKO. As well, those beehives will be filled with sensors (temperature, humidity, light and other factors) that the same FabLab students created and programmed. The sensorswill track changes inside the beehive and study how environmental factors affect the beehive and bees’ behavior, as well as how that data can be used as an environmental sensor itself.

The first of such special beehives was finished and carried to Valldaura. There, the interns, guided by Annemie Maes, finished the last assembling, placing the beehive in the area they had been preparing for it the previous days. Through the process, Maes conducted the first part of the workshop. Now, the beehive is set and ready, waiting for the swarming of local hives to have a new fresh one to be located in Valldaura.

Mapping the foraging areas at Valldaura:
calendula, malva, brassicaceae, quercus ilex (good honey tree, flowering between march and may - steeneik), arbutus unedo, erica, blackberries, ivy, ruscus aculeatum, lobularia maritima, sambucus nigra, wild mint, cherries, apples, hedera helix, arbutus unedo (strawberry tree), rubia peregrina, ruta graveolens, Asphodelus fistolosus, Diplotaxis erucoides, almond, apricot, plantago, wild lavender, viburnum (tinus), wild fennel, populus nigra (propolis), Celtis australis (edible), chelidonium majus (stinkende gauwe - medicinal), Fragaria vesca, Urtica (netel), Bursa pastoris, Hypericum perforatum, Thymus, Rosmarinus, Asparagus acutifolius, Melissa, Santolina chamaecyparissus (cotton lavender), Pinus sylvestri, …

workshop opensource beehives at Valldaura, part02 (may 2nd - 2013)

De eerste dag zijn we de zwarte bijen gaan halen (Apis melligera mellifera) in Lleida, 2 uur rijden van BCN, binnenland Catalunya.
Richting Pyreneeën ziet het er zo uit om bijen te houden:

beehives in the spanish pyrenees

De bijen kwamen mee in een verluchte kartonnen doos, en ze zaten al op topbars van Warre-maat:
5 frames en 1 koningin.
Toegekomen op de Valldaura-site prepareren we de transfer van de travelbox naar de warré hive.

John (zijn eerste job als newbee beekeeper) heeft net de sensors afgewerkt.
2 temp en 1 humidity inside, temp en humidity outside. Hij zal de data elke nacht via een laserconnectie doorsturen naar het huis, vermits de site geen wireless heeft.
De data worden tijdelijk gesaved op een SD card die op de smart arduino met bee-shield gemonteerd is.

John had die nacht maar 3 uur geslapen. Hij ziet er donker uit :)
De sensors en smart arduino worden gepowerd door een zonnepaneel dat naast de hive staat. Hier maakt John de connectie met het panel.
Connectie van sensors en arduino werkt, data komen binnen en worden opgeslagen.

Ai! Een onvoorzien fact! Omdat we de originele plannen van de Warré hive hebben aangepast naar de grid van OpenStructure, zijn de binnenmaten van de hive een klein beetje veranderd.
De diepte is 1cm korter geworden, en dit geeft uiteraard problemen, want ipv. dat de nieuwe bijen op topbars geleverd zijn, zitten ze op full frame Warré frames. Dwz: 1 cm te hoog!
What to do now? De box sluit uiteraard niet meer, en de verschillende lagen boxen kunnen niet meer gestapeld worden.
Er zit maar 1 ding op: alle bijen afschudden van de frames in de onderste box van de Warré, de 2de box wordt hierbij gebruikt als trechter.
Nu maar hopen dat we de koningin niet kwijtraken in deze transactie!

Het is blijkbaar gelukt: de meeste bijen zitten in de hive, en de bijen die buiten achterbleven lopen zelf naar binnen, een teken dat de koningin binnen zit.
Eind goed al goed. De hive wordt vastgezet met spanriemen als voorzorg tegen curieuze everzwijnen.
Onder de hive hangt de plastic box met arduino en andere technologie. De outsite tmp en hu sensors zijn beschermd tegen vocht.
Transfer gelukt.

Bij de transactie zijn er 10 bijen in mijn face-mask gekropen. Zo'n netje over je hoofd is dus niet voldoende voor een situatie waar hopen bijen rondvliegen, kwaad omdat ze van hun frame moeten en omdat hun nest uit mekaar gehaald wordt.
Ik heb 6 bijensteken in mijn gezicht en hoofd gekregen, en ik heb de helft van de nacht op de spoeddienst van het hospitaal gezeten, waar ze direct een dikke spuit cortizone in mijn bil geplant hebben!
Ik ben er nu nog altijd niet goed van, en kan alweer een Frankenstein-achtige foto van mezelf aan mijn verzameling toevoegen.

Nooit beginnen te werken zonder aangepast materiaal. Ik had een deftig bee pak moeten aanhebben om zo'n transactie te doen.
Nu ga ik nog 3 dagen minstens met een opgezwollen kop rondlopen!

okno's bee monitoring at Valldaura

In April, OKNO organized a two-part bee monitoring workshop at Valldaura Self Sufficient Lab in Barcelona. Prior to the event some of the Fab Lab Academy students had been building several beehives – one of which will be put in OKNO’s rooftop garden – making use of Warré’s principles and the OpenStructures system to make them more sustainable. They had equally been developing a sensor-equipped measuring device that tracks the temperature and humidity changes on the inside and outside of the hive and as such reveals how ecological factors affect the bees’ behavior. The Valldaura interns had been using material found in the surroundings to create a natural structure that will offer coolness and shadow to the Valldaura beehive on hot summer days. During the first part of the workshop, the hive was assembled and placed in the area that had been prepared for it. The second series of working sessions was used to transfer a recently formed colony of European dark bees from the Catalan inland region to their brand-new home on the Valldaura premises. The pieces of technology were connected and set to work using solar panels, ready for studying the bees as bio markers disclosing environmental health.

workshop opensource beehives at Valldaura, part03 (june 30th 2013)

A second warré-hive is created in the fablab BCN, destinated to the Valldaura apiary. We will make an artificial swarm, a split from the first colony.
Sunday 30/6, a beautiful sunny day, we open the first warré hive, which is setup now from 3 boxes. The last box was added (nadiring or adding from beyond) 1 week ago. The colony developed very well over the first 2 boxes, the last box was not build out yet. It is remarkable that capped and fresh honey, pollen and open and closed brood are all mixed, on all frames. In a regular hive (kempische, langstroth, dadant, …) the different elements are well divided per frame, in concentric circles. Here, in the warré, the cells are literally mixed: honey and larves, pollen and queen cells. Yes, there are a lot of queen cells in the hive.
I take some full honey frames as a basis for the new hive/colony. Than I add a frame with pollen, there are also several queen -cells on that frame. As 4th and last frame we add a frame with closed and open brood. I cannot detect the queen immediately in this bunch of black bees, but no worries: or she stayed in the parent hive, or she is tranferred to the new hive. In both hive there are enough fresh & closed queen cells, so that a new queen won't take to long to start laying and continue the maintenance of the colony.
At last, I shake of that many young bees as possible into the new hive, and we hope that the regular hive-life will go on as soon as possible. Best would be to control in ± 3 weeks (when all the existing closed brood cells are born) if there are new open and closed cells, to be sure that the queen is at work!

18/8/2014 check up at Valldaura.
Jonathan, Luc, Annemie + Niku.
The Roumanians messed around with hive2. A lot of the frames are gone in the lower box, the higher box is completely empty. And when we installed hive 2 (early june) we put the bees on frames in the upper box, now the upper box is empty! The few bees left are in the lower box. Jon + John said a week ago that there was no brood in hive 2, now there is a few open brood. But nearly no bees. I don't see the queen immediately. But it is clear that this is not a natural situation. Holy shit!
My 2 cents: there is a new queen born, probably not from the queen cells but from an egg that the bees made into a queen cell. From end of june (30/6) 17 days + allow 2 weeks for nuptial flight and before she starts laying eggs, this means roughly 1 month = end of july. And now, on august 18, there are eggs from 1 week old.
I decide aniways to join the 2 hives, as hive 2 is really too small to be able to develop in a normal way before winter. It will be too weak and probably not survive. There are nearly no flowers this time of the year. Daucus carota is the only one, but this is not a good bee flower!
I don't know what the Roumanians did, but it is something strange. I don't feel responsable anymore for these hives.
We open hive01, 3 boxes. They are well sealed with propolis. On the topbars of the upper box we see small ants. We have to think about how to handle this problem (put the feet of the hive in water?). There is a lot of honey, the comb breaks while lifting it. What a mess, honey all over the place! My gloves drip and bees of course want their honey back. They start to attack. The fingers, but also the elbows (I messed with the honey on my T-shirt). The shirt is black -ah! even after all these bee-years I forget that I should NOT wear black working with the bees! - and so they think it's a hole (maybe filled with honey) and they start to bite. Result: 4 stings, 2 in every arm/elbow.
The middle box looks well filled, colony and honey, and we decide to put everything back and join the 2 hives. One queen will kill the oter … I put the 4 frames of hive2 in the upper box of hive1, and we close the boxes. Jon will add a Varroa treatment later this week, as the one he bought (Thymol chrystals) was too difficult to prepare. We'll go for the Thymovar napkins.
After this bee-adventure (it always is at Valldaura, due to difficult working situation in the open field) we go for lunch in a classic spanish family restaurant in Collserola. Heavy but good!

24/08/2013: Jonathan: I took one of the smaller fallen combs from the hive today and squeezed the honey out. After a few bad attempts I found a good method by cutting it into strips and using a glass to roller-squash it onto a plate. One whole comb (it wasn't completely full of honey) produced around 250 grams ±. I will go back tomorrow morning and take the other fallen comb. This should get us the 500 grams the analysts need. Since we have taken out so much honey before the winter … Is it worth while to put another sugar feed in the top of the hive? Anyway, here is a photo of one of the jars I am giving to Luc. It tastes of oranges!!

Valldaura Honey

annemie: The honey looks amazing! Wow, oranges, this is of course very well possible - with all these fruit trees in and around Barcelona. Though, the honey does not always tastes the source it comes from, as we humans taste it. I mean, lavender honey will have a very different taste of the smeel of lavender, and chestnut does not especially represent the taste we associate with a chestnut. I am very curious for the result of the analyses. It would be good to give the bees some extra food. Therefore you have to use a feeder, a plastic box, in which you put a diluted mix of 3kg white christal sugar on 2l water. The feeders can hold mostly ± 2 l of the solution at a time. You can put it in an empty wooden box, on top of the other boxes of the hive. I ordered in Belgium for my own hives some products for treating the Varroa mite. I can give some to Luc to use for the Valldaura hive. I'll check if I have a spare feeder to borrow too. Than you don't have to go to the bee shop.

05/09/2013: Valldaura honey send to CARI for analysis: analysis form

Jon :
Here are some pictures of the process and results of extracting the honey / wax.
The most pure honey was that which ran out from the comb directly.
The darker colour honey was that which had to be squeezed out of the comb. ( x2 processes)
I then separated the wax from the honey in the oven at 50 degrees.
There was a lot of extra dark brown organic crud which i removed.

I have send the honey to the laboratory yesterday. I expect the result of the analysis in 6 weeks max. This will give us an idea on which flowers/trees the bees were foraging at Valldaura the passed season. It will also give an indication of valuable nectar plants at Valldaura, and we can learn out of this information for improving the foraging fields around the beehives.
I think it will be a good idea to look into some devices to press 'comb' honey. Something like a berries-fruit-press can be a good starting point.
It is very important to press the honey in a 'cold' process. If honey is heated above 40°C it looses all its medicinal/healthy qualities. Taste is not effectuated by the heath.
The 'extra dark brown organic crud' are the rests of the 'popping' process of the bees in the cells. That's also why the wax is darker at some places. The more bees are born/popped in a cell, the darker the wax becomes.
Therefore you have double honey sieves, to filter all this stuff out of the honey.

Annemie to Jon: For the varroa treatment, you should cut 1 yellow napkin in 2 and put it on top of the most full brood box, I guess this will be the upper one.
If there is no spare place between the topbars and the quilt box, than hang the napkins between the frames 1 and 3 and between 7 and 8.
I did it that way with the Warre in Brussels.
I slipped an open paperclip through the top of the napkin in order to hang it between the frames.
After 3 to 4 weeks you have to take it out and hang the second one.
In the meantime you should check how mamy square decimeters there are filled with honey.
3 dm2 filled by both sides of the frame with honey = ± 1kg.
If we suppose that they cannot find food anymore (but the ivy still has to blossom or is blossoming now) than the Valldaura colony should have at least between 8kg and 10kg of honey in the hive. If they don't have that much, than they need to be fed with a mix of sugar water.

15/11/2013: results honey analysis: honey analysis Urban ArtFarm - 2013 and honey analysis Valldaura 2013
Note the intresting differences: there were UAF-bees are city honeybees, they get their honey from bigger trees as the chestunut and line trees in Brussels city. The Valldaura bees are country bees, and their foraging fileds -situated in the woods of Collserola) offer more wild flowers and brambles instead of bigger tress, as all Conserola trees are merely pines and not so suitable for nectar foraging.

20/11/2012: action groups for Valldaura

5/3/2014: new websites for mapping melliferous plants in Valldaura: Spanish Melliferous plants

Valldaura plants Lorena

7/3/2014: 2 apiculture shops in Catalunya to buy Warré bees

intelligent_beehives/bee_research_barcelona.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/10 10:19 by ami