Busy bees get temperature-controlled, 21st Century ‘prefab’ homes and say thanks by providing more honey
The bee population is under serious threat yet its contribution to our ecosystem is as crucial as ever. So any way in which science can help bees survive is a welcome bonus for this hard working pollinator of our crops and flowers. Now, after centuries of using traditional wooden hives, beekeepers are turning to a new development which effectively gives bees a designer home made out of expanded polystyrene – a material recently renamed ‘airpop’ across Europe.
Airpop is described as ‘engineered air’. In fact it’s 98% air captured in a polystyrene matrix. It’s just like the expanded polystyrene used in packaging to protect everything from human organs to fragile computer equipment but its strength, durability and thermal insulation qualities have been recognised as a perfect combination for beehives.
The new airpop beehives help bees survive the extremes of climate that are increasingly common. The material’s exceptional insulation qualities (it is also used in cavity walls and for transporting fresh fish and seafood) keep the bees warm in winter when heavy frosts can devastate a bee colony – and cool in summer when overheating can be an issue for these temperature sensitive creatures. And unlike wooden hives, the new beehives will never rot.
The difference in honey yield is quite remarkable and demonstrates the importance of providing a safe, thermally insulated home for this precious creature.
Paynes Southdown Bee Farm
But it’s not just the material they’re made from that’s clever. The new hives have been designed with every creature comfort incorporating features such as a landing strip, feeding door and easy honey removal. In fact one of Britain’s biggest commercial beekeepers, Paynes Southdown Bee farm in Sussex which not only sells the hives but has been producing honey since 1922, claims the new hives have increased their honey yield by 30%.
Roger Payne said, “The difference in honey yield is quite remarkable and demonstrates the importance of providing a safe, thermally insulated home for this precious creature. The new hives are proving extremely popular not just for commercial beekeepers but also for amateurs as they require virtually no maintenance compared with traditional materials. It’s question of moving forward with the times and if that means bees benefit then we all do.”
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