BEEcosystem: Living, Breathing Design
BEEcosystem: Living, Breathing Design

This project has already launched.

The observation hive is not a new concept in beekeeping - but existing styles of observation hives haven't changed in decades, and they are limited in their functionality. Not anymore: BEEcosystem is designed specifically to be simple and modular, expanding across your wall in any hexagonal pattern.

Even if your BEEcosystem hive is setup outdoors, the unique modularity allows for the hive colonies to be securely and easily closed off for events and educational purposes. Afterwards, simply reattach the hive to its home and open one of the vents.

We are a team of two who originally met while attending Penn State University together back in 2012. Dustin was studying biology and working in a honeybee research lab, and Mike was studying architecture and working on urban farming design modeling - since then, we have a substantial track record of collaborating together successfully over the past 5+ years on a variety of interior agro/eco design-build projects.  This campaign is about growing the BEEcosystem community as we enter our second year of business as BEEcosystem LLC. By supporting our campaign, your contribution is directly helping us to grow our manufacturing capabilities this year, bringing more BEEcosystem hives to more people, and helping educate one another about the critical roles that pollinators play in agriculture and the environment.

When we began this project by prototyping our first hives in Fall 2014 and then installing our first experimental hive colonies in the Spring 2015 season, we already knew that there was a LOT of room for innovation in observation hives. BEEcosystem's modern and elegant design not only looks great, but also addresses the common irritations users have with existing observation hives:

If you’re a beekeeper, you know that Langstroth and Warre hives have always expanded vertically by adding new boxes and supers—now, BEEcosystem is the first observation hive to use the same tried and true logic, but on a horizontal plane, expanding across your wall in a hexagonal pattern.

BEEcosystem's modular expansion works by using our unique (patent pending) vent-to-passageway magnetic connection points. Because both the hive’s side vents and additional hive bodies attach magnetically, by simply sliding out any one of the four side-ventilation screens, another BEEcosystem hive body can be attached to create a more spacious hive interior—giving your colony room to grow and thrive.

By using magnetic alignment, BEEcosystem units connect together effortlessly—and because we use powerful magnets, they also connect together securely—delivering both peace of mind and ease of installation.

When we began work on the very first BEEcosystem prototypes in October 2014, our goal was to design the most user-friendly observation honeybee hive ever built, period.

This past year, we put the first commercially-available BEEcosystem hives into the hands of several dozen customers and beekeepers, who sent us overwhelmingly positive feedback. Listening to that feedback, we heard one commonality for a proposed design tweak—that there was a desire for the hive to open from the front rather than from the back, so that outdoor hives could be opened up and maintained directly in place, without having to remove them from the wall in order to open them from the back. We are pleased to announce that beginning now, all 2018 BEEcosystem hives will feature this update! Additionally, all 2018 hives will also still be contiguous with the 2017 (back-opening) hive models, so that all of our existing customers can modularly connect new 2018 hives with their current 2017 hives. 

We strongly believe that we have designed a hive product that meets the needs and desires of our customers, and is indeed the most user-friendly observation hive ever built. The diagram below illustrates some features detailed in the 2018 BEEcosystem hive specifications:

Great! Welcome to the fascinating world of apiculture. If you are new, we are here to help you learn. Whether that be offering advice, pointing you in the right direction for answers, or trying to connect you with your local beekeepers association, we want you and your BEEcosystem hives to be setup for success. 

Through our new Ambassador Program, we are in the process of building a platform to facilitate more connections between beekeepers and non-beekeepers, who are likewise passionate about helping take action to support pollinator protection. Our goal is to connect experienced beekeepers with less experienced BEEcosystem observation hive customers: beekeepers act as "sideliners," helping to maintain BEEcosystem hives on their own terms, most typically for agro/eco businesses or environmental education centers that host BEEcosystem hives—and Ambassador beekeepers can get paid for providing their knowledge and services. For more information, visit the Beekeeper Ambassador page on our website

BEEcosystem LLC was cofounded by Mike Zaengle and Dustin Betz, and officially incorporated in January of 2017. Mike and Dustin have worked together over the past 5+ years on a wide variety of interior agro/eco design-build projects, from aquaponic miniature container farms and rotating living wall vertical farms, to hydroponic furnishing pieces for a variety of residential and commercial clients. 

Even if you can't pledge your financial support to backing our campaign here on Indiegogo, you can still help us spread the word! "Like" or "Follow" us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and give us a shout-out! Also, please share this video and this campaign page on social media and with your friends! 

And if you're an experienced beekeeper, regardless of whether you can support us financially by backing this campaign or purchasing a hive, we would love to tell you more about our new Beekeeper Ambassador Program. Click here to visit our website and learn more, and fill out the form at the bottom of the page for us to get in touch with youWe will also be exhibiting at this year's American Beekeeping Federation Conference & Trade Show in Reno, Nevada between January 10th-13th, 2018 - so if you're attending the conference, stop by our booth in the Trade Show!

 

Because we have already been manufacturing and fulfilling BEEcosystem hive orders for the past year, fulfilling backers' campaign pledges will not be a challenge for our team, regardless of whether or not we meet our flex funding goal. We have our manufacturing supply chain in place, and the manufacturing run will absolutely happen—so backers can rest assured that they will receive their orders/perks. Our goal in launching this campaign is simply to consolidate some preorders ahead of the 2018 season, which will help make our first manufacturing run of the 2018 year even more successful, as well as to help generate some buzz in coordination with our exhibition at this year's big American Beekeeping Federation Conference and Trade Show in Reno, the largest beekeeping conference in the USA.

A consistent challenge we face today, as we have also faced in the past, is in helping to guide novice beekeepers who back our campaign—BEEcosystem attracts all kinds of people, and we designed it to be beautiful and interesting so that it does just that—so if you're a first-time beekeeper, we welcome you to the BEEcosystem community! However, we consider it our responsibility to offer some guidance to new beekeepers, and also to correct those who might hold the misperception that beekeeping is an effortless hobby that magically produces honey. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. In fact, many beekeepers will conservatively recommend waiting until after hive's second fall/autumn season in order to harvest honey for the first time, and even then only harvesting the surplus honey that bees have stored up, so that they do not starve themselves overwintering, which can happen if too much honey is harvested. Beekeeping is certainly not difficult to learn, but it does require a desire to want to learn it! Luckily, beekeepers tend to be the most curious educators, who love to help one another learn continuously—and the level support out there for beginner beekeepers is truly enormous. We are thrilled be a part of that support system for first time beekeepers, and we do provide some resources, as well as openly welcome questions from those getting started for the first time.

Going hand-in-hand with beginner beekeeping, another unique challenge comes in the form of making sure our backers know their local beekeeping laws and ordinances. While the tides of stigma are changing, some municipalities still ban beekeeping outright. It is important to check with your state and local laws and ordinances, as some states also require beekeepers to register their hive(s). Both throughout and following the campaign, our team will make ourselves available to work closely with our backers and make sure everyone understands their local laws and regulations, as well as how to meet them.

A third challenge may come from backers who pledge a reward level to receive only a single BEEcosystem "HexHive," and whose honeybee colony then successfully outgrows the space of that single HexHive. The reason BEEcosystem is modular is to be able to expand the available hive-interior space; however, this assumes backers will either pledge reward levels upfront that receive multiple HexHives, or purchase additional HexHives later on as needed. A larger honeybee colony tends to be a stronger honeybee colony, so permanently restricting bees to a single HexHive is not the ideal longterm condition to foster hive stability, as a colony that runs out of room is far likelier to swarm. Swarming is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, because it is essentially a reproductive phenomenon—but if the colony either splits or leaves completely in a swarm event, the beekeeper may be disappointed. BEEcosystem is designed to expand into a large observation hive, not remain confined to a single 6-frame HexHive for consecutive years of use. We will work with our backers, especially new beekeepers, to help them understand swarming behaviors and how to manage them effectively.

One final challenge is that some backers (again, especially first time beekeepers) may believe that a failed colony signifies that they are a failure as a beekeeper—this is simply incorrect, but offers a teachable moment about what it really means to practice beekeeping. Remember the often cited Colony Collapse Disorder statistic: that on average ~1/3 of ALL hives are lost EACH YEAR due to Colony Collapse. That means even professional beekeepers, who keep bees commercially to earn their living, still experience failing colonies every single year. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of nature and a true fact of beekeeping—but it is also a driving motivation for the creation of BEEcosystem: because by together encouraging new hobbyist beekeepers to host more hives, we all help make small contributions to our localized honeybee genetic diversities. Some researchers believe the best hope for honeybees' future will lie in their ability to naturally adapt and evolve resistances to the various localized stressors that contribute to Colony Collapse. Therefore, by keeping bees in your local community, you ARE helping to naturally foster that random genetic diversity—so remember, if your colony does fail, that does not make you a failure as a beekeeper. On the contrary, it proves you ARE a beekeeper for having tried, and you will always have the ability to continue beekeeping, by starting up a new colony the next season, and helping add that pollinator genetic diversity to your local area.

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