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a beekeeper holding a beehive full of bees

A master’s student printed beehives for sustainable farming

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José Francisco Arteaga Alarcón holding the project © SADER / Universidad de Chapingo
José Francisco Arteaga Alarcón holding the beehives © SADER / Universidad de Chapingo

José Francisco Arteaga Alarcón, a master’s student at the Ingeniería Agrícola y Uso Integral del Agua (IAUIA) of Chapingo Autonomous University in Texcoco, Mexico, has developed new beehives using 3D printing technology. Innovatively, employing exceptional advanced resin 3D printing, Arteaga Alarcón reconstructed the hexagonal formation bees would otherwise have to build naturally, releasing them from the labor-intensive task. This logical strategy aims to enable bees to transfer their energy to honey production and reproduction of important plant species without stress.

The natural way of building hives for the bees entails using beeswax and other natural secretions that may take time to be produced, which is important for their survival. Beekeepers have facilitated this by fashioning beehive boxes intended to lure the bees and enhance honey production. However, with the increase in the rate of disappearance of bees across the globe, there is a need to come up with better ways to support bee foraging. This is where 3D printing comes to the rescue as it presents an innovative method of constructing hives that are quite different from conventional hives.

a close up of a beehive with bees on it
© Meggyn Pomerleau

José Francisco Arteaga Alarcón said about 3D printed beehives: “The systematized hive will have pre-existing panels allowing the bees to focus directly on honey production. The honey harvest is intended to be automated and directly in the honeycomb.”

Advantages of 3D Printed Beehives

The new 3D printed hives designed by Arteaga Alarcón, offer a range of benefits as compared to the standard hives. These hives mimic the natural hexagonal shape, thereby cutting down the amount of work bees need to do to create their home, thus utilizing their resources for honey production. This reduction in labor also does away with fatigue but equally avoids other issues like heat, noise, and space issues that are rife in conventional hives. The expected result in this case is that bees will be less stressed, meaning that the environment will be adequate for their proper growth.

a beekeeper holding a beehive full of bees
© Bianca Ackermann

The University of Chapingo is affiliated with Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and therefore, the institution is likely to benefit from government funding for continued research on this subject. Mexico has a rich biodiversity of bee species, the quantity of which is over two thousand. It is noteworthy that the sector of beekeeping in Mexico highlights an average annual production that exceeds 60 thousand tons of honey from two million colonies, benefitting more than 43 thousand beekeepers and their families.

The incorporation of 3D printing technology into bee farming signifies the move to innovation in the practice of agriculture and implies environmentalism. Measures, such as the ones taken by Arteaga Alarcón, not only benefit beekeepers and increase honey yields but also promote the improvement of living conditions for bees and, as a result, the overall efforts toward maintaining global species variety and food production sufficient for world population’s needs.

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