December 1, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Last spring, New York City lifted its ban on urban beekeeping, joining other cities like Chicago and Paris in providing hives to rooftop bees and at the same time helping the planet. In response to the global decline of bee colonies, the Dutch company Philips recently unveiled a concept that can contribute to the preservation of the species and also encourage the return of the urban bee.
A concept for design-savvy urban beekeepers, the Urban Beehive, part of Philips’s Microbial Home eco-system project, respects the natural behavior of the bees, while allowing urban dwellers to harvest honey through the window of even a tiny city apartment.
The beehive design consists of two parts: an entry passage and flower pot outside to attract the bees, and glass vessel containing an array of honeycomb frames, inside. The glass shell filters light, letting through the orange wavelength which bees use to see, and also allowing beekeepers to observe the bees. The frames contain a honeycomb texture on which the bees build their wax cells. And in keeping with established practice, before the hive is opened, smoke can be released into it to calm the bees.
To make their hives, bees produce wax and propolis, a resinous mixture that varies with the bees’ environment and diet. Propolis has a structural function but is also believed to inhibit harmful pathogens in the hive and is sold as an alternative medicine. Once the health benefits of honey and propolis are better understood, the urban beehive could also have a role in the home apothecary.