Australian Native Bees | News & Info

Sugarbag Bees Observation Hive

Empty box pictured left connected to main strong hive middle of photo

This is the new Observation Box from Sugarbag Bees in Brisbane. Tim Heard has been testing the design out for a while now, with the full hive pictured here being two years old and is going well. It’s currently connected up to another empty one for Budding/Eduction. Observation hives are great for seeing the inner workings of Stingless Bee colonies without disturbing them.

You can see the brood cells here pressed against the clear window. The width of the space is only 45mm so it provides a great opportunity to see the brood cells. Stingless Bees would normally create a shield of Propolis (wax and resin mix) around the brood which is called the Involucrum (envelopes the brood). The Involucrum in this box is only around the sides of the brood that have the honey and pollen pots and not against the clear window so you can see a good cross section of the colony structures.

Tim has a few of these boxes set up around the yard, two others shown below…

Brood Transfer

Tim says it can be a challenge to get bees in to the boxes so it does help to have some experience with Stingless Bees. This box has had some brood transferred in and is quite heathly, getting a bit of Winter sun. You can see here most of the structure is to the right, close to the entrance.


One issue with Budding in to a completely empty Observation box is the process can be very slow. The bees spend more time walking around on the clear window and it gets resin on it, clouding the view. The faster you can get the colony to create structure then the less time the bees spend on the window and the clearer the window will stay.

Tim Heard has provided the below description, specs and images…

Plans and description of The Vertical Observation Hive

Our new Vertical Observation Hive (VOH) is very narrow, only 45 mm wide internally. The internal volume is 5.2 L, smaller than a standard Australian stingless bee hive. The restricted width and reduced volume oblige the bees to build their structures right up against the walls. The VOH is made of two parts: outer box cover and inner box. The two long side walls of the inner box are made of 3 mm clear acrylic.

Click to enlarge

These design features provide great opportunities for observation of nest structures and bee behaviour. The box has no moving parts and requires no maintenance. External dimensions of outer box cover are 500 x 375 x 110 mm. External dimensions of inner box (not including the plinth) are 445 x 345 x 55 mm. Rebates, 5 mm deep, are cut to insert the acrylic side walls. Small screws secure the acrylic sheet into place. Apart from the acrylic side walls, all other components are made of plywood, 25 mm thick for excellent insulation. The final weight of the entire VOH is 8.5 kg. The width could be increased by 100 mm to 600 mm to make a larger 6.6 L box, for a hockingsi colony. Or the width could be reduced by 100 mm to 400 mm to make a smaller 3.9 L box, for an australis colony. All surfaces are painted for protection, except the interior of the inner box which will be in contact with the bee nest and so best left unpainted. The inner box and the inner surfaces of the outer box cover are painted black to reduce light entry. The mat finish paint reduces light penetration and prevent the boxes sticking together. Talc powder can be used for lubrication so the outer box slides freely over the inner box. The two entrance holes are 13 mm diameter.

Beautifully built by Sam and Aaron Heard. Available for sale here, Thanks to Dan Klaer for his patience and persistence in producing these CAD images.

For more info visit Tims website at

Hivecraft - Australian Native Bee Supplies

Native bee boxes available at

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