The Ultimate Guide to Sunhives 


Hanging Sunhive with Frame and Roof – Photo by Michael Joshin Thiele

Sunhives are a revolutionary new approach to beekeeping that prioritizes sustainability and the well-being of the bees. Beekeeping has been an essential part of human culture for centuries. Bees are an indispensable part of our ecosystem, and their pollination services are crucial for the growth of many plants and crops. However, traditional beekeeping practices have been harmful to the environment and the bees themselves. This is why Sunhives are a popular choice among beekeepers who prioritize natural and sustainable beekeeping practices.

Sunhives are designed to mimic the natural habitat of bees, providing them with a safe and comfortable living space. The hives are made from eco-friendly materials and are designed to be easy to maintain.

But what makes Bee Sunhives so unique is their design. Unlike traditional hives, Bee Sunhives have a hexagonal shape that allows for more efficient use of space. This design also allows for better ventilation and temperature control, which is crucial for the health of the bees.

With Bee Sunhives, beekeepers can enjoy a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to beekeeping. By providing bees with a natural habitat, we can help them thrive and continue to provide essential pollination services to our planet.

What is a Sunhive?

Standing Sunhives

A sunhive is a type of beehive that is designed to mimic the natural habitat of bees. It is made up of a series of stacked boxes that are shaped like a dome, with a small entrance at the bottom. The boxes are made from natural materials like wood, straw, or clay, and are designed to provide insulation and ventilation for the bees.

Guenther Mancke, a German sculptor designed the Sunhive (Weissenseifener Haengekorb) after many years of researching the nature of honeybee colonies. In his book “The Sun Hive”, he explains:

“The impetus for its development came from the need to free the bees from a principle at once earthbound and cuboid, one that goes against every law of form – we are dealing here with laws that are particular expressions of a creature’s life. There are many reasons for bees’ present-day afflictions. We can be sure, however, that one of these reasons is the fact that the creature, as a physical and ethereal entity, can no longer live its life as it is meant to. Our attempts have therefore been directed at counteracting the debilitation of the bees’ vital forces by means of those stabilizing forces that are inherent in form. These latter forces act subtly in a generally therapeutic way on the living organism that is the colony, but they must be supplemented by methods of animal husbandry that abandon some of the old customs and replace them with new ones. On the one hand, the new skep we have developed allows the bee to live its life in a way that accords with its being, and on the other hand the system of movable combs offers the beekeeper the means of laying hand to the hive and taking any appropriate action that may be necessary. The Sun Hive is therefore an intermediate form between a fixed-comb hive and one with a movable comb system.”

Sunhives are often used by beekeepers who want to provide a more natural and sustainable home for their bees, as they allow the bees to live in a way that is closer to their natural habitat. They provide a more natural and sustainable home for bees, allowing them to live in a way that is closer to their natural habitat.

Similar to a Warré hive, the Sun Hive enables the queen bee to move throughout the entire hive, laying eggs as she desires. This freedom promotes healthy colony growth by allowing bees to control the location and development of their brood nest.

This can lead to healthier and more productive colonies, as well as a more diverse and resilient bee population. For beekeepers, Sunhives are more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional beehives. This is because they are made from natural materials and require less maintenance and intervention. Sunhives are also a beautiful and unique addition to any backyard or garden, adding to the overall aesthetic appeal of the space.

How to Build and Set Up a Sunhive

Image by Günther Mancke

Finding a Sunhive for sale is not as simple as finding other types of hives. However, building and setting up a sunhive can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for beekeepers.

The first step is to gather all the necessary materials, which typically include wooden boards, screws, and a sunhive kit. Once you have all the materials, you can begin assembling the sunhive according to the instructions provided with the kit. It’s important to ensure that the sunhive is level and stable, as this will help to prevent any damage or instability that could harm the bees. Once the sunhive is set up, you can begin introducing your bees to their new home and monitoring their progress over time.

Building A Sunhive – Photo by Daniel de Rycker

1. Wooden Parts

Wooden Parts of a Sunhive – Photo by Kelsey Love

Sunhives are a unique type of beehive that feature nine comb arches at their center. These arches are positioned over a circular hole in the division board, and the bees hang from them while they build their combs downwards into the lower part of the hive. The arches and combs can be removed, but it requires careful handling and the use of a prong to hang them back up. Sunhives offer a different approach to beekeeping and can be a fascinating addition to any apiary.

2. Canvas Hood

The hemispherical top of the hive is covered with three pieces of coarse (often waxed) canvas. This is to protect the hive from the elements and predators while promoting proper ventilation.

Sunhives have arches that prevent bees from building comb between the tops and inside the structure. This makes them easier to inspect and maintain without disturbing the bees too much. They also have natural insulation properties that keep the temperature stable and comfortable within the hive. Beekeepers who work with sunhives often report healthier colonies with increased productivity.

Additionally, this type of beehive encourages natural beekeeping practices like propolising. This is when bees create a resinous substance (propolis) to fill in any gaps or cracks in the structure to keep out pests and diseases. Sunhives are becoming increasingly popular as beekeepers look for ways to promote sustainable and natural methods of beekeeping.

3. Skeps

Skeps, are upside down straw baskets in which bees create their characteristic curved honeycomb. They do not contain frames for comb building and thus require manual inspection and manipulation to harvest honey, as well as to examine the health of the hive.

Unlike traditional rectangular hives, sunhives are constructed from sustainable materials and are designed to promote natural beekeeping practices. One of the unique features of Sunhives is their distinctive construction process. A wooden ring is formed around a template, and then further laps are added to create the hive structure. This design provides better ventilation and insulation compared to traditional rectangular hives, which can lead to healthier colonies and more productive bees.

Sunhives are eco-friendly compared to traditional hives due to their use of sustainable materials and construction methods. They also allow bees to build their combs in a more natural way that is both efficient and beneficial for their health and productivity. The natural construction process also promotes better airflow within the hive, which helps regulate temperature and humidity levels.

Overall, Sunhives provide an excellent option for beekeepers who want to promote natural beekeeping practices and support healthy bee populations while also using sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.

4. Entrance

Photo by Marianna de Leeuw

Sunhives are a type of beehive that have a unique design for their entrance funnel. The funnel is a decorative, woven landing board that sits on a wooden ring at the base of the under-skep. The bees walk up the outside of the funnel to reach the entrance, which encircles the top of the funnel-neck housing inside the wooden ring.

Wooden sticks that go all the way through keep the funnel in place. This ensures that it stays put no matter the weather conditions.

5. Siting & Weathering

Sunhives are a modern, sustainable type of beehive that has been used for centuries. They are made from natural materials such as straw and reeds, and feature a cone-shaped structure for better air circulation and temperature regulation, leading to healthier bees.

To protect the hive during colder months, many beekeepers choose to place their sunhives inside a WBC hive. Sunhive beekeeping is an innovative method which utilizes vertical cavities for housing bees in different climates, while also providing easy-access windows so beekeepers can inspect without disturbing them.

How to Make a Sunhive Water-Resistant

To make Sunhives weather-resistant, beekeepers often use weatherproofing materials like linseed oil or beeswax, protective roofs, elevated stands, windbreaks, and strategic placement to shield the hive from extreme weather conditions and maintain a stable internal environment for the bees.

  1. Weatherproofing Materials: Sunhives are typically constructed from sustainable materials like straw, clay, or wood. To enhance their durability, beekeepers may apply natural weatherproofing agents such as linseed oil, cow dung, clay, or beeswax to the outer surfaces of the hive.
  2. Protective Roof: Adding a waterproof roof made of materials like wood, metal, or even thatched straw can help shield the Sunhive from rain, snow, and direct sunlight, thereby protecting the hive from extreme weather conditions.
  3. Elevated Stand: Placing the Sunhive on an elevated stand or platform can prevent ground moisture from seeping into the hive and protect it from potential flooding.
  4. Windbreaks: Installing windbreaks, such as hedges, fences, or walls, around the Sunhive can help protect it from strong winds and create a more stable environment for the bees.
  5. Strategic Placement: Positioning the Sunhive in a location that is sheltered from prevailing winds and excessive sun exposure can help maintain a stable internal temperature and humidity level, contributing to the overall health of the colony.

By incorporating these protective measures, beekeepers can ensure that their Sunhives remain durable and weather-resistant, providing a comfortable and safe environment for their bees.


This practice helps maintain healthy honeybee colonies while harvesting their honey with minimal disruption. Additionally, the domed roof allows natural sunlight into the hive and provides more ventilation than other types of hives.  – aiding in the health of the bees and allowing them to be productive for years to come.

Photo by Georgi Stoev

Sunhives also have an insulated top panel that helps regulate temperatures within; plus, removable roofs make it easier to access and inspect without causing too much disturbance. Those interested in constructing their own sunhive can find instructions online.

The hive should be placed at a height of 8 feet (2.5 meters). This is the optimal height for bees as it allows for improved air circulation and ventilation, as well as easy access for the bees. Instead of hanging a sunhive, some beekeepers place their sunhive on stands or shelves without the funnel for bottom entry. These hives have an entrance towards the bottom that is wider than a funnel.

Maintaining and Inspecting a Sunhive

Proper maintenance and regular inspections are crucial for the health and well-being of your bees in a sunhive. It’s important to check the sunhive for any signs of damage or wear and tear, as well as to ensure that the bees have enough space and resources to thrive.

Regular inspections can also help you identify any potential issues early on, such as pest infestations or disease outbreaks, and take appropriate action to address them. Additionally, it’s important to keep the sunhive clean and free of debris, as this can help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and other contaminants. There are two short videos on how to inspect a Sunhive, Video 1, or Video 2.

Honey Harvest

Bees constructing wax combs for Honey Storage in a Sunhive

Extracting honey from Sunhives can be more challenging than from traditional box hives, such as Langstroth or WBC hives. This is mainly due to the Sunhive’s unique design, which closely mimics the natural shape and structure of a bee colony. In a Sunhive, bees are allowed to build their combs in a more natural manner, without the use of pre-constructed frames or foundation.

To harvest honey from a Sunhive, beekeepers must carefully cut the honeycomb away from the hive walls. There needs to be enough comb left behind for the bees to continue producing honey. This process can be time-consuming and requires a delicate touch to avoid damaging the hive or harming the bees. Once the honeycomb has been removed, the honey can be extracted by gently crushing the comb and allowing the honey to drain out through a filter or sieve.

It’s important to note that harvesting honey from a Sunhive may yield less honey compared to traditional hives. The focus of Sunhive beekeeping lies in promoting natural beekeeping practices and healthy colonies instead of honey production. However, many beekeepers who use Sunhives find the experience rewarding, as it encourages a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to beekeeping.

Pros and Cons of Sunhives

Sunhives are a relatively new type of beehive that has been gaining popularity among beekeepers in recent years due to their natural and sustainable approach to beekeeping. While they have many benefits, such as promoting colony health and reducing the need for chemical treatments, they also have some drawbacks to consider.


  1. Natural Environment: Sunhives mimic the natural environment of bees. This means that they provide a more natural habitat for bees to live in. Bees build their comb in a way that is more natural for them. They promote colony health by providing a more natural environment for the bees.
  2. Energy Efficient: The design of Sunhives is more energy efficient. The natural building materials insulate the hive effectively and provide good ventilation. This means they require less energy to maintain than traditional beehives.
  3. Sustainable: Made from sustainable materials like wood and natural fibers means that Sunhives are environmentally friendly. This can be an important consideration for beekeepers concerned about the impact of their activities on the environment.
  4. Easy to Maintain: The design of sunhives is easy to maintain. This requires less time and effort to keep in good condition. This can be a significant advantage for beekeepers who have limited time or resources to devote to their hives.
  5. Aesthetics: – Sunhives are beautiful to look at and can be a great addition to any backyard or garden.


  1. Cost: Bee sunhives are more expensive than traditional beehives, which can be a significant barrier for those with limited resources. Sunhives are often handmade and require more time and effort to construct, which can drive up the cost.
  2. Limited Availability: Bee sunhives are not yet widely available, which can make it difficult for beekeepers to find them. This can be a significant disadvantage for interested beekeepers.
  3. Limited Research: Because Sunhives are a relatively new type of beehive the research about their effectiveness remains limited. This can make it difficult for beekeepers to determine whether they are a good choice for their needs.
  4. Limited Resources: Sunhives require a different approach to beekeeping than traditional beehives, and are not as widely. Therefore it may be more difficult to find resources and support for using them.
  5. Climate: Sunhives may not be suitable for all climates or beekeeping practices. Weather conditions can also impact the health and well-being of your bees in a sunhive. Extreme heat or cold can be harmful, so it’s important to monitor the temperature and provide appropriate ventilation and insulation as needed.
  6. Difficult to Expand and Harvest: Their unique design may make it difficult to perform certain beekeeping tasks, such as adding/removing frames, and harvesting honey.
  7. Swarming: One common issue is swarming, which occurs when a colony becomes too large and the bees decide to split off and form a new colony. To prevent swarming, it’s important to regularly inspect the sunhive and ensure that the bees have enough space to expand.
  8. Pests: Another common issue is pests, such as mites or beetles, which can infest the sunhive and harm the bees. To prevent pest infestations, it’s important to keep the sunhive clean and well-maintained, and to use natural pest control methods when necessary.

Is Sunhive Beekeeping Right for You?

Deciding whether to use sunhives in beekeeping is a personal choice that depends on a variety of factors. If you are looking for an eco-friendly option that mimics the natural environment of bees and requires less intervention from beekeepers, sunhives may be a good choice for you.

However, if you are on a tight budget or prefer a more traditional approach to beekeeping, sunhives may not be the best option. Consider your individual needs and preferences before making a decision.



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