Many colonies across the world are collapsing as increasing stress and disease plague these little creatures. As a result, many campaigns are underway to raise awareness and also encourage more people to join the beekeeping ranks, especially in the urban environment.

One group hoping to make a difference is the Bee Collective, based in the city of Maastricht, the Netherlands. Consisting of designers and beekeepers, it aims to find ways to stimulate and enable beekeeping.

“Many bees are being kept in cities, some even in public spaces, but nearly none of them are visible or even accentuated. We believe that bees should become a natural part of our life again,” says one of Bee Collective’s designers, Robin van Hontem.

However, this was easier said than done because the law in Maastricht states that a beehive cannot be located within 30 metres of a residential home. The Bee Collective’s ingenious solution was the Sky Hive – a hive placed on top of a seven-metre pole.

“As bees fly upwards when they leave the hive, they will have no direct contact with their immediate surroundings. The beekeepers can bring the hive down to take care of the bees and when it is back up, humans and bees are once again a safe distance from each other,” explains van Hontem.

The Sky Hive consists of two beehives on a platform that is winched up and down by means of little rubber wheels. This ensures a smooth ride for the bees. When the hive is on the ground, any returning bees congregate on the flag at the top. Once the hive is winched up again, van Hontem claims it takes them less than a minute to return back to the hive again.

“The hives were offered to us by an experienced beekeeper. They are actually more than 40 years old but we decided to use them for the prototype of the Sky Hive because we knew that they would work well,” says van Hontem. “This allowed us to concentrate on the other obstacles such as the movement of the pole in the wind, getting the hive up and down the pole and so on.”

The first prototype was placed in the busy Sphinx Park in Maastricht. So far people have shown a great deal of interest in the bees buzzing above their heads. In fact, some have even asked to help take care of the bees and learn under the guidance of the beekeepers who come to inspect the hives.

Although it is just a prototype, the Bee Collective is working on a market-ready product, which they hope to get in place by spring 2013.

“The most exciting thing about the Sky Hive is that it provides the possibility of keeping bees in virtually any place in the city, as long as there is a bit of distance between houses and the hives, such as in city parks, roundabouts and public squares,” says van Hontem.

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