I love honeybee crafts of all kinds, but typically beehive crafts look more like Winnie The Pooh beehives hanging from trees. These really look more like paper wasp nests if you think about it, and nobody is getting honey out of one of those, I assure you. What is needed is a realistic beehive craft.
This year I have been doing quite a lot of open-air beehive removals from trees and in the eaves of houses. One night, as we were removing a particularly beautiful hive, I was suddenly inspired by the shape and color of it. In the middle of the removal I began creating this craft in my head. I knew how I was going to make a realistic beehive craft, and it was going to be really easy too.
When bees either abscond from their old home or split to create a new colony they leave in a swarm to find a new location. As the bees rest in a cluster scout bees will be busily looking for a new home to bring their sisters to. Once the colony decides the best location they will leave as a cloud of bees and land as a reformed cluster wherever they have chosen. Sometimes that is inside a tree or a house or wall, or sometimes it seems, they prefer to remain outside in a tangle of tree branches.
Immediately upon landing, the bees, who have been in full wax-production mode since beginning their flight, will begin the architecture of their home. Some bees will make the wax and some will form it into the hexagonal cells that make up the construction. The colony cannot store food, nor can the queen lay eggs until those cells are formed, so it is of utmost urgency.
Honeybees build their comb, which is what the collection of cells is called, by attaching the wax to a surface and then building out (usually down) from it. They build cells on both sides of a single sheet of comb. Beeswax is pure white and very fragile at first, but as each new generation of honeybee emerges from egg to adult and leaves, that cell is cleaned and lined with a thin coating of propolis, which is a brownish substance produced by the bees as they collect resin from various trees and plants. Propolis is very strong and it allows the comb to grow into larger and larger sheets that can withstand strong winds and other disturbances.
More and more sheets of wax will be formed next to the original comb with just enough space for two bees to walk past each other back to back. That is how they get the vertical layers of comb that you see hanging in trees or in eves. It looks the same inside of walls or under floors, but it is adapted to the space they have. Some sheets will be very long and narrow when it is in walls. Others will be short with more numerous sheets when they are built in floors.
These are some of the open air hives I removed this past spring. The lighter comb means it is fairly new.
The bees use the comb the same no matter what shape it takes and you will find that whether in a beekeeper’s hive box or in a tree, you will know where to find the food, the brood, and the queen.
Honey and pollen are the bees food sources and brood is the offspring of the queen (eggs, larvae, and pupae). If you look closely at the comb in a hive you will find that the bees store honey at the extremities. They begin at the top of the hive and the edges. This protects the inner parts of the hive from weather and disturbance. Honey is very insulative. After the honey comes the bee bread, which is pollen mixed with royal jelly and honey. It is placed closer to the brood because this is what is fed to the young bees. Finally, in the center of the colony is the brood chamber. This is where you will find the queen as well. Her job is to lay eggs and therefore she has no need to wander any where else. Not only that, but her attendants are also young bees who have never yet left the brood area. This space must be kept at a temperature around 95 degrees Farenheight at all times for the brood to survive. It is kept at this temperature whether it is 20 degrees or 120 degrees by the actions taken by the bees and by the insulation of the honey.
The size of the colony will vary throughout the year. It will be bursting with bees during a nectar flow, which is when the majority of nectar sources are blooming in any one area. Then in the colder winter months the colony will shrink to a smaller cluster with hardly any brood. The comb will look rather empty then, and if the summer was not productive, the bees may have even eaten all of their honey stores. They are waiting until the flowers bloom again. The rising temperatures and new pollen sources will alert the bees that nectar is coming and the queen will again begin to lay 1,000 eggs or more a day. Then when the colony has no more room to grow the bees will again create a new queen and the old queen will leave with thousands of her offspring to begin again in a new location. They are a new colony from the mother hive. It is an extremely beautiful cycle.
Here is the center brood comb of a real Beehive.
I am honored that I get to observe this up close as a beekeeper and most especially as a bee relocation. I am sad to dismantle a hive, but I know that when I do I am saving the colony and they can rebuild in a new home where they are wanted and cared for. This Natural Honeybee Hive Craft is in honor of them.
Now to make the Realistic Beehive Craft
- Bubble Wrap (used or new)
- Acrylic paints (I used Apple Barrel colors in Snow White, Golden Sunset, and Chestnut, and Jet Black)
- Wide paint brush
- Tacky Glue
- Glue Gun
- Puffed Grain Cereal (any kind works)
- Cardboard or Foam Board to attach the “comb” to.
Steps to creating the Bubble Wrap Beehive
The first thing to do is to cover your work space with newspaper or maybe a plastic tablecloth. Next you need to decide how many layers of comb you want because you are going to make two of each in graduating sizes. The center two combs are the largest. Then just cut them out in a basic shield shape. Remember that this is nature so they can be perfectly imperfect.
Once you have all the layers spread out you can pour big dollops of pain onto a newspaper “pallet.” Look at pictures of real comb to decide how to paint. Keep in mind that the middle combs are going to be darker, and the center of each comb will be darker than the edges. I started with white and mixed it with the gold color to paint the edges and then added browns as I moved to the center. Often the smaller outside combs are so new that they may even be white and unused.
I would suggest painting the smooth side of the bubble wrap first and then flipping it over just before it’s completely dry to paint the other side. That way some of the bubble paint will come off and make it look textured. I need to point out that I used a fairly dry brush to build up the layers of color.
Once the paint is all dry you can add the “bees.” For this I used Tacky Glue and then sprinkled cereal on it and pressed it into the glue. Once dry you can shake off the extra cereal. Use as much as you want, but I wanted to make sure the comb showed through in lots of places. The thickest cluster of bees is always in the center.
After shaking off the bees, whatever stuck to the glue will remain. It’s probably better to use more glue than you think because some of the cereal bees will fall off as the plastic moves.
I totally forgot to take a photo of how I glued the comb onto the board, but it’s very simple. I started at the center and ran a bead of glue on the bubble side of the top of the largest comb. Then pressed it onto the board. (I think I showed this in the video below.) I then folded it over and added the next smaller comb until one side was complete before I flipped them over and did the other side.
Once your Realistic Beeive is complete you can attach it to a ceiling to display or have it suspended by string. Please let me know if you make one and send me some photos. I’d love to see you’re creations.