The wild native Irish black bee along with other honeybees that live in Ireland, have seen a deep drop in their populations. This is due to several bee-related problems, of which the main ones appear to be pesticide use and habitat loss.
However, there is another factor that isn’t always in play in other areas. For years Ireland imported bees from warmer climates, and those bees have been challenged to survive in Ireland’s damper, cooler, climate.
One Irish designer with a passion for bees and sustainability, has decided to do something about this trend. Niamh Damery grew up with bees and has a deep love for them.
She hopes to save Ireland’s native bee species with special hives she designed that are grown from mushrooms. She also hopes to get more people involved in conservation.
The Irish black bee can look forward to a whole new concept in beehives. Damery has named the prototype hive the Econooc. This splendid design bio-mimics the space in a hollow tree. She designed it to act as a barrier against viruses that threaten native black bees in Ireland, so it can have an impact on helping these bees to enjoy healthier lives.
The Econooc placed on the World Top 20 for the James Dyson Design Award for Sustainability.
This 2:55-minute video by Niamh Damery shows what the Econooc is, and explains a bit about her own background.
Ireland is full of hybrid bees now, where the foreign imported bees bred with the native Irish black bees and created a new bee species. These hybrids invaded the beehives belonging to Ireland’s black bees, and even though these were a bit hardier than the original imported bees, they still had a hard time coping with the Irish weather.
The Econooc is a hive that is grown from mycelium spores that have been spread out on agricultural byproducts such as straw or wood shavings, called a substrate. Mycelium is the underground fibrous structure that supports the fruiting body, the actual mushroom that you see if you go on a walk. This substance is now being recognized as an emerging super design tool with massive potential, and is even being used in canoes, bricks, and coffins.
Mycelium is mixed with the substrate and compressed into a mold to mimic the structure of a natural beehive. Then it is put into an oven, so the shape is preserved.
If you put this hive in your garden, it will teach you about biodiversity.
This 2:31-minute video by the James Dyson Foundation takes a deeper look at the Econooc.
Econooc simulates the hollow of a native tree where wild black bees like to build their hives to shelter themselves, their food, and their young from the Irish rain. Recycled plastic is used to build a landing pad so owners can watch bee activity as they dart in and out of the hive. The hive is fastened to the tree with straps from old car seatbelts. This makes the hive creation almost entirely recycled or sustainable.
To educate people about the annual rhythms and cycles of bees, Damery created a calendar that is included with the purchase of each hive. It educates hive owners every month about the various native plants that grow during that period, that require pollination by wild Irish black bees. It also explains what is happening inside the mushroom hive that season.
Once the month ends, the hive owner can tear off the bottom of the calendar, which is filled with wildflower seeds. Placing it beneath an inch of soil in the garden further helps to save native Irish black bees and other pollinators.
The next step for Damery is to get the full prototype made. Then she will apply for funding before lining up the manufacturing. She already has a list of buyers. It should not take too long for the Econooc to be available on the commercial market.