Econooc: A sustainable beehive for everyone who wants to support the conservation of native Irish Black Bees

Econooc is a hive, made from mycelium and other repurposed materials, created to help with the conservation of wild native endangered Irish Black Bees.

Designed by Niamh Damery, a former Product Design student at the University of Limerick, Econooc was developed to enable more people to get involved in bee conservation that might not have had the opportunity before, in particular those “people who don’t have time or money for beekeeping”.

The mycelium hive is created to biomimic the shape of a tree hollow. This shape is the perfect shape for bees to move around in a cluster during the winter months. 

The base is made from mycelium, which is grown from mushrooms and acts as a binding agent when grown on a substrate. Mycelium is similar to polystyrene and also has natural substances that can give the bees an extra defence against the varroa mite which can carry viruses into a hive. The Econooc is a segmented self-assembly hive, which makes it smaller to transport, and easier to grow and repair.

The bottom remoulded waste plastic landing pad and ventilation hole allows people to watch the bees inside the hive. The Econooc also comes with a calendar that teaches the user about biodiversity and how to create a more diverse garden. The lower section of the calendar is made from wildflower seeded paper which the user can plant.

More than 30% of Irish bee species are threatened with extinction, according to the National Biodiversity Centre. More than half of the country’s bees have undergone a substantial decline since 1980. The Irish black bee is being affected by excessive imports of international bees. This is because the new strains mate with native bees, producing new generations that can’t cope with the weather.

Niamh Damery’s Econooc, which won Ireland’s James Dyson Award for 2020, aims to provide a support system for native Irish bees to survive and thrive.

Niamh Damery said: “Although there are lots of different types for commercial beekeeping there are none that are sold for conservation efforts. On top of that, I have only every found people growing mushrooms under hives to protect the bees but there is no commercialised mycelium hive. This hive is not just about the bees either, it gets the user out planting the calendar and watching and monitoring the bees and their garden.

“This product is unique in that it doesn’t create more waste but the majority of its material is waste material and in just buying it the user is combating the waste. The product is also very versatile. It can be used at home but it can also be used in school for education or for farmers and gardeners who don’t want the effort of keeping a hive but want more pollinators around.”

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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