Urban Beehive for Design Loving Beekeepers

December 1, 2011 by

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.


  1. Kaveh said:

    You don’t have to be a beekeeper (and obviously the people who created it weren’t) to understand that is one of the most ridiculous contraptions ever created.

    Hopefully a beekeeper will be along to point out all the obvious flaws with this design.

    — December 1, 2011 @ 20:30

  2. Sharon Wong said:

    Hi Kaveh,

    It’s a BEAUTIFUL “contraption”, but not being a beekeeper, and your comment reads as if you too are not a beekeeper, yet you commented that it’s “ridiculous” and that there are “all the obvious flaws with this design”.

    Illuminate me/us please!

    — December 2, 2011 @ 09:09

  3. Steven said:

    People once thought skyscrapers and motorized vehicles were ridiculous as well. This is a creative expression with an open view to how mother nature creates the things she does. Does it work…. I guess we will find out but it is certainly pleasing to the eye. Don’t judge before you have some points of truth.

    — December 2, 2011 @ 09:47

  4. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said:

    Forward thinker are always interesting thank you for your wonderful shares

    — December 2, 2011 @ 11:35

  5. Doreen said:

    I love this! Where can I get it and how affordable is it! This would be great to teach children, well and adults who aren’t forward thinkers 🙂

    — December 2, 2011 @ 11:59

  6. Mil said:

    As a beekeeper, what would be hard is that the bees need to expand the hive to accommodate the incoming nectar and also have space for the larvae during the busy time of the year.

    Having said that, it’s a beautiful design. Perhaps it could be used more as an observation hive. What I think is great about this is that the design shows that people are thinking about bees and we need to keep bees a focus of our attention.

    — December 2, 2011 @ 12:40

  7. Kaveh said:

    I do have some “points of truth” Steven. Which is why I am judging. Perhaps you shouldn’t so blindly believe in something before doing a little fact checking. Follow this link if you have an open mind and would like to learn a little bit about what makes this design so absurd.


    — December 2, 2011 @ 14:09

  8. Sharon Wong said:

    Kaveh, you could have given us the link in your first post instead of talking around it in that disparaging manner. But, Three Cheers for absurd designs! They make the world all the more interesting.

    — December 2, 2011 @ 18:15

  9. Teresa said:

    I don’t think the design is any more absurd than the original straw woven beehives from less than a century ago. Bee’s don’t need a human-provided hive they do very well creating their own in the wild. That said…bees can make a hive out of whatever is available.

    — December 2, 2011 @ 21:19

  10. Des said:

    The beauty of creation.. Bees making honey, humans designing intelligent beehives, is “what is about”. Beautiful minds with beautiful thoughts make our world a better place. Thank you for creating and bringing the urban dweller a little bit of nature to enjoy.

    — December 3, 2011 @ 11:20

  11. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Thank you Kaveh for this link. I have asked the folks at Philips Design to respond. I hope they will as I see many people would like to have the benefit of multiple points of view.

    — December 3, 2011 @ 12:29

  12. Yaya said:

    What threw me off immediately is “allowing urban dwellers to harvest honey through the window of even a tiny city apartment.”

    Since when has it been a good idea to open the lid of a beehive IN A TINY APARTMENT?! Even with smoke, that’s a terrible idea.

    I could see this being used in a greenhouse maybe though. If it were a little larger. Bees need a bit more space.

    — December 17, 2011 @ 00:46

  13. Diana said:

    Cool-looking, but as the link Kaveh shared says, this “hive” is desperately non-functional for many reasons. Since that blog post in the link pretty well covers most of the reasons, I won’t repeat them here, but I’ll add that a few things.
    -As a beekeeper, I can tell you that there is no way to open that hive to “harvest honey” (which you wouldn’t be able to get from hive that small, anyway) without ending up with a few thousand bees flying around in your living room. Smoking calms them, yes, but doesn’t debilitate them! They still fly and walk all over!
    -That hive is actually illegal in many/all(?) states. (I know it would not be allowed here in Illinois, where ALL beekeepers (even if you have just one hobby hive) must register with the Department of Agriculture annually.) Government regulations on beehives and apiaries states that individual frames of comb and brood must be accessible and removable for inspection. This hive does not allow that.
    -The flower pot at the entrance to “attract bees.” Um, I’m sorry, but that, maybe more than anything, shows that the designer has not the first clue about bees. Bees visit approximately 2 MILLION flowers to make a single pound of honey, which isn’t much honey! That tiny pot isn’t going to grow much. (And anyone who gardens knows that a pot that small, outside, would be nigh-on impossible to keep watered!) Also, any bee that stops at that flower pot is going to be a forager, not a scout from a swarm looking for a new home. And even if a scout did somehow find that opening, it’s smooth and white and not at all what a bee is looking for. The likelihood that a swarm would find it and move in is pretty much zero.

    Observation hives already exist, but they are not generally used as a permanent home for a colony of bees, for almost all of the same reasons this hive will not work.

    — December 17, 2011 @ 09:30

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  15. Larry said:

    This picture also shows obvious deception. The comb shown does not hang straight down. All beekeepers know that bees build their comb straight down. It might be curved, but hangs straight down. So the comb shown in this cavity was more likely hanging so that the part next to the wall was actually at the top when the comb was drawn out by the bees. This company should have tried installing it with bees, to let them draw out the comb in a more natural way. The bees will eventually create burr comb in this hive, as is, to compensate for the wrong angle of the present comb.

    — December 21, 2011 @ 09:19

  16. Robert, the Oxford Garden Project said:

    Agreed, a beautiful CONCEPT design, and the world needs more of them, but, unfortunately, also agreed that it is totally impractical PRODUCTIVE hive. I believe when I first saw this some months ago on Philips concept site, the idea was to pull the bottom cord and honey would flow out. If only it were that simple! I would love one of these as an OBSERVATION hive at the project, but its lack of expandability and construction would give serious practical problems, and if you don’t want to share a room with lots of justifiably angry bees wanting their honey back, you shouldn’t even contemplate opening it up! Whether you want to practice “traditional” beekeeping to obtain honey, or “natural” beekeeping to provide a home for the bees there are many more practical, and undoubtedly cheaper, ways of doing it, even in an urban environment.

    — January 2, 2012 @ 13:23

  17. Lisa said:

    1) The combs must be vertical.
    2) Queen bees do not like light.
    3) The comb sheets need to be closer together to avoid abnormal comb architecture.
    4) Who, in their right mind, would try to extract honey from a hive that’s inside their home?

    — January 30, 2012 @ 01:15

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  19. Agen Bola said:

    What an incredible idea! I can see this reinventing Main Street.

    — August 17, 2012 @ 02:24

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