Non-contact and very cheap way to keep bees

Many members of this forum recently voted to support The Bee Conservancy as part of The Prepared’s annual environment donation. In the spirit of continuing to support Team Bee I want to share a neat project that I came across.

The following video shares a person’s experience breeding and raising bees in plastic bottles for practically nothing. He builds many variations of this project in a bottle as small as 1L all the way up to very large plastic keg sized bottles. The video is 30 minutes long, but is well worth it.

This video is just an introduction to this concept of bee keeping in plastic bottles and he will later release an in-depth tutorial on how exactly to build these bottles and more of the tips behind bee keeping in them.

He hopes that this non-contact, safer, cheaper, and interesting way to raise bees will bring more people into the hobby, reduce our dependence on store bought honey, and add more pollinators to our environment.

I like one of the quotes from the video:

“Humans can live without honey but would starve without bees.”

His YouTube channel also covers various creative projects, bushcraft, and outdoor cooking.


  • Comments (10)

    • 3

      Interesting concept.  I hope his follow on info is a bit more structured.

      Yes, we would starve without bees however the best bee pollinators don’t make honey.  In my location, the dominant bee is the bumblebee… by far & away.  I have a fair number of honey bees around so I might give this method a try when he comes out with specific info.

    • 3

      Those look interesting, but would be illegal here due to the risk of spreading diseases and parasites that could wipe out commercial apiaries and the orchard crops that depend on them.  In my state (and most others I believe) bees must be kept in supers with removable frames, so the beekeeper can monitor for and treat diseases.

      In my personal view that law is kind of stupid – they destroy bee gums or alternative hives, but no one is checking up on whether amateur beekeepers with removable frame supers are actually doing their job and going in to the hives regularly, which many don’t, rendering the whole thing rather pointless.

      Regardless of local laws or one’s ability to keep alternative hives hidden from view, it’s not really responsible to keep bees (in any kind of setup) unless you’re willing to put in the effort to do it right.  Diseases spread by poorly managed domestic honey bees threaten not only commercial crops and beekeepers, but also native wild bees, many species of which are already struggling for survival.

      • 2

        Regardless of local laws or one’s ability to keep alternative hives hidden from view, it’s not really responsible to keep bees (in any kind of setup) unless you’re willing to put in the effort to do it right.  Diseases spread by poorly managed domestic honey bees threaten not only commercial crops and beekeepers, but also native wild bees, many species of which are already struggling for survival.

        I’m certainly no expert, but it seems like you are talking more from a commercial beekeeper standpoint than a hobbyist keeping one hive.  I think the whole point of this method is not to manage the hive but to mimic wild bee behavior and hives.  When we start talking management of bees that is when it gets over the head of the ordinary Joe.  Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hobbyist didn’t even harvest the honey.

      • 2

        I’m no expert either, but it’s my understanding that even a single hive can pose a danger if mismanaged.  Keep in mind we’re talking about hundreds of individual animals living in close quarters.  If one bee brings something back and it’s allowed to spread through the hive unchecked, that’s hundreds of bees going out every day and potentially contaminating thousands of flowers over a two mile area.

        I imagine keeping a wild strain of honeybee in their native habitat, they might be more able to fend off disease on their own, and/or other (non-honey) bee species that evolved alongside them would at least have resistance to whatever they might be spreading.  Unfortunately domestic breeds have been developed for honey production and docility rather than ability to thrive without human intervention, and North America isn’t even supposed to have any honeybees.

        If the goal is free honey and wax, that’s a decision for the individual to weigh against the potential harm they’re doing – few actions are entirely without consequences, and it may even compare favorably to, say, clearing land for farming.  But if the goal is pollination or somehow trying to “help bees” by keeping a few hives, most people would do much better to help by improving habitat for native bees (as simple as a brush pile or berm by the edge of your garden) or becoming a customer of a local beekeeper who knows what they’re doing.

        I’m not trying to be mean to anyone by saying this.  Many years ago I actually kept a few hives myself, thinking at the time that I was doing something good, but I wish I had known then what I know now about the potential to spread disease.  And I was even doing things “half right” in that I checked on them and treated for mites, but there were also times when a colony wasn’t thriving and I couldn’t figure out why, so I did nothing.  I feel bad about that now, wondering if whatever they had was contagious, and what those slowly failing hives might have spread to native bees that didn’t evolve to compete with honeybees or face the diseases they can spread. 

      • 2

        I have two horizontal hives up in my barn.  I just never felt comfortable with my knowledgebase, so I never set them out.  I do understand how important it is to protect the bees.  I do everything possible to make my farm hospitable to the bees and it pays off with huge bee populations.

        They love my 150+ fruit trees in the orchard & I leave my pastures natural, with all sorts of clovers & other blooming plants.  I have planted a couple of Linden trees (Basswood) in my bottom pasture just for them.  I might activate the hives next year, as I retire at the end of this year & should have the time to devote to this pursuit.  Having my own honey is not a big factor for me.  Healthy bees is though.

    • 2

      These things have been around in a variety of shapes and sizes for at least the last 20 years (the length of time I’ve kept bees) the issues with them are that they overheat in direct sunlight and that they’re simply not economically viable. They don’t pose any additional disease risk, in fact they make it easier to watch for and treat for varroa mites which are a major vector of bee diseases. 
      Both the US and UK are pretty hot on control of bee diseases and have networks of inspectors who visit any registered bee keepers, check for disease and offer good advice.

      • 1

        I’d like to learn more from you about keeping bees. I just love honey and bees are amazing pollinators for my garden.

        Do you use the traditional wood box beehives? I’m not sure if they have a name.

      • 1

        I now use national hives which have a brood box with two supers, all have moveable frames. I used to use WBC hives which are the typical English country garden hive, these have inner brood box and supers covered by an outer layer of lifts painted white. Both types of hive use the same moveable frames.

      • 1

        I take it hives are painted white so they don’t get too hot from the sun? I know bees flap their wings in the hive to generate heat so it’s probably easier for them to warm up then to stay cool.

        What are the pros and cons of a brood box vs a WBC hive?

      • 2

        They also fan their wings at the hive entrance to cool the hive (or spread pheromones when a captured swarm is introduced to an empty hive) 

        The UK isn’t really that bad for extreme heat, I think it’s more of a convention based on old bee keeping beliefs. My hives are all untreated self coloured cedar and they seem to do ok.