The “Sun Hive”, designed by German sculptor Guenther Muncke is a combination of skep weaving and circular inner wooden frame. The inspiration for the hive design came from observing a wild bee’s nest in a forest near his home, with it’s combs covered in a protective layer of propolis and wax. They’re part of the world-wide movement towards ‘apicentric’ beekeeping – beekeeping that prioritizes honeybees firstly as pollinators, with honey production being a secondary goal.
The Sun Hive has an upside down skep hive at its base with curving frames in the top section and no frames in the bottom section. The hive is placed well above ground level (optimal for bees – they never choose to create a hive on the ground). Made with a wooden frame, woven rye straw and cow dung, there’s a platform that allows for the separation of the lower and upper parts. The upper part is formed with removable wooden arches, which is where honey is stored, while the lower part is where surplus nectar can be stored. A waxed cloth covers the top part, to prevent the bees from attaching comb to the inner part of the upper skep. The bees are able to build comb from the top down, in an unconstrained manner, as they do in the wild.
The results of using the Sun Hive are quite extraordinary. Bees raised in Sun Hives are typically happier, more docile, healthier and don’t require artificial swarm suppression methods.
To maintain your Sun Hive you must build a shelter to give it protection from the wind and rain, treat your exterior wooden parts with an organic paint or varnish, give your straw skep a haircut, decide whether to cloam or not with cow dung and replace your covering cloth.
The Sun Hive is design to be both beautiful and natural to a degree (in the comb building sense). However, most European wild hives are built in enclosures like hollow trees (provides protection from the elements) without the freedom of comb construction like Guenther’s drawing above. Open, wild bee’s nests rarely survive weather or predation. In believe the maintenance of the hive would be labour intensive and require previous beekeeping experience and knowledge (not for the novice).
The underlying idea is that by tailoring hives to bees’ natural tendencies, they are apt to thrive and thus, be bolstered against factors causing bee colony collapses. The Sun Hive is meant as a conservation method, rather than for lots of honey production. It’s a beautiful, bee-friendly and even bee-therapeutic design, made with the bees’ natural inclinations at its very heart.
Here’s a video of how it’s built from the beginning. Enjoy! ?