Beekeeping may become more accessible with this new hive

Deluxe EZHouse at Leystone Farms, mural of sun and clouds painted on left wall by Iris Kiwiet, deer in front of hive turning towards camera Photo by Cindy Mulvihill Photography

A newly patented beehive could make beekeeping more accessible to people with disabilities and fears of bees.

Apiverte, founded in 2019, is a beehive management company and honey distributor based in Gatineau Hills, Que. On June 20, they announced a patent for the EZHouse, a new type of beehive they’ve built and managed in around 35 farms and orchards across Quebec. They’re now selling EZHouses to individual hobbyists and small businesses who want to manage their own hives.

According to Sandra Bornn, the founder, president, and CEO of Apiverte, EZHouses require less physical exertion than the Langstroth hive, which has been the standard commercial hive in North America for around 150 years.

In a Langstroth hive, between four to 10 boxes are stacked on top of each other. The queen is placed in her own box on a ground-level platform so eggs aren’t produced in the same place as honey. Every 10 to 12 days, the beekeeper has to remove all boxes from the stack to check the queen’s health. 

Bornn says Langstroth hives get heavy when they’re filled with honey; a full stack can weigh up to 80 lbs, which is difficult to move without special equipment. She adds, however, that these lifting tools aren’t often designed for people with disabilities.

“There are very few mechanical accoutrements that will allow them to lift a hive or inspect a hive,” Bornn says. “Since they don’t have to do any real heavy lifting with an EZHouse, it would be really easy for them to do the day-to-day maintenance.”

EZHouses put the queen’s box in a drawer at the bottom of the hive, with all other boxes placed on individual shelves directly above the drawer. This means the queen can be removed independently when the beekeeper needs to do a health checkup.

Apiverte can also build hives at custom heights, much like the Slovenian AZ hives Bornn drew inspiration from. But EZHouses improve on the AZ hive design by eliminating small components that can only be manipulated by taking off a beekeeping outfit. “We don’t have fussy little tabs or anything we have to unscrew with gloves off,” she says. “If we can’t get it off with a big honking spaceman glove, then it’s not good enough.” 

Bornn emphasizes that no matter the type of hive, beekeepers always have the same responsibilities. She says new beekeepers should still take classes or workshops to learn about properly maintaining colonies before investing in an EZHouse.

“This isn’t a hack, this isn’t a shortcut for beekeeping,” she says. “It makes the physical barriers of a human being taking care of livestock easier.”

EZHouses come with winterized wooden structures that buyers can pay extra to decorate with murals by a local artist. Bornn says the art is meant to combat peoples’ fears of bees; she was terrified of bees until her early 40s, when a neighbour finally convinced her to visit some of his hives. By making EZHouses aesthetically pleasing, the Apiverte president hopes to start approachable conversations that encourage safe interaction.

“Art has an amazing ability to bridge gaps,” Bornn says. “When something is beautiful it’s less intimidating and easier to talk about.”

In 2021, Apiverte commissioned Ottawa-based street artist Daniel Martelock to paint a hive at Ferme Essart. Martelock says painting the flower- and bee-centric design on the oddly shaped wood panel was challenging, but it was a fun departure from his usual format of spray painting large bird murals. He adds that it’s an honour to contribute to a project that helps bees repopulate.

“We all know the bee population isn’t doing as good as it should be. Knowing that there’s housing for them, I find that really intriguing,” Martelock says. “These are like full bee condos.”

Pre-built EZHouses start at $2,500 for a single-colony hive, with a DIY option that allows buyers to construct the wooden structures themselves starting at $1,500. This is more expensive than the average single-colony Langstroth hive, which costs around $1,000, but Bornn points out that the EZHouse cuts down on equipment and winterizing gear costs that can add up long term.

Featured Video