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  • Writer's pictureCarole Conn

Bee Boxes - Make a Beeline for them!

I keep bees. Well, I don' t really "keep" them. My beekeeper friend Cathy does the heavy lifting. But I have 3 hives in my field where they live and leave to roam around and pollinate my plants and give me beautiful honey. These are my beehives:

So, naturally, I got interested in old bee boxes. They are really fascinating - no two are alike, unless they were made by the same beekeeper.

When bees go out and look for pollen they always fly in a straight line back to the hive. Old beekeepers would capture bees in a bee box and then release them from various points and chart their flights. This would lead them to the hive which they would then either capture and move to their own property, or just take the honey - hopefully these were wild hives, not ones on someone else's farm. The phrase BEE LINE comes from this practice. The beekeepers were "bee lining".

There are also Queen Bee boxes. They are tiny. My first Queen Elizabeth (my queens are named Victoria, Elizabeth and Mary) died, so her hive went about producing another queen to take her place. A hive can't live without a queen - she lays all the eggs. This hive must have been pr

Bee boxes often have compartments, glass or screen windows, and sliding wood doors. Bait was placed in the box (usually honey), enticing a bee to enter. The sliding door could then capture the bee. The box could then be opened again for another bee, all to be seen through the window. Clever!

This box has a glass inset in the front panel which lifts off. The center divider pulls up creating 2 compartments.

This one is similar to the one above, but the glass is set into the sliding door,

so it only has one compartment:

The one below is quite large - 10" tall x 5 1/2" x 5 1/2". It doesn't have any compartments or sliding doors. The front of it, which has a glass insert, is hinged like a door and opens to one large space. It also has a knob on one side (no idea why).

I like this one - 1/2 of the top opens up and has a round hole in it which is covered with a screen. The center divider sits in the middle and slides, and the end opposite the lifting end has another round screen, so it has 2 compartment, both of which can be viewed.

This is the simplest of all - the whole front is glass and the back panel slides up:

My favorite in my collection is one I just found in New Hampshire. The top is shaped like a box top and it has a round glass window and a small round hole. Both are covered with wooden keyhole covers which turn on a nail. There is also a center divider in the box which slides, creating 2 compartments.

I've seen pictures of bee boxes in paint, ones with multiple chambers, and some that just look nutty. They generally date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Whether you are into bees or not, bee boxes are a wonderful primitive collectible because of their individuality and the creativity displayed by their makers.

More information on bee boxes can be found in the Spring 2015 issue of A Simple Life magazine, " Huntin' For Bees" by Kris Casucci, page 64.

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