WHAT IS A WARRE HIVE?

A Warre hive is a vertically stacked top bar hive that features bars instead of frames. Bees working a Warre hive have a wooden guide nailed to to the top bat that helps them draw out the comb straight.The creator of the Warre Hive(and its namesake) was the monk Abbé Warré.His design persued a setup that was simple,easy to manage and as close to the honey bees' natural habitat as possible. This Bee Hive Box design seeks to incorporate natural comb and the retention of hive smell and heat.The consensus among the Beekeeper community is that this hive design might be the one that requires the least management of them all because solves one of the bee problems apiarists face:the use of expensive chemically laden foundations.The Warre Hive is foundation free.

WHY USE A WARRE HIVE?

Warre Hive

For the beekeeper wanting an inexpensive , low upkeep hive design,the Warre hive is an excellent choice.There isn't a necessity to inspect the colony that often ,buy a costly honey extractor or use wax foundation full of chemicals when you are lucky enough to have Warre hive. The optimal technique to manage Warre hives is to regurlay add a new box to the bottom of the Hive Tower,regularly harvesting and cycling out old combs(so it is not used over and over) so the hive remains chemical and toxin free.

Hard gained experience facing all kinds of bee problems has lead us to believe the Warre hive is the ultimate design for natural, chemical-free beekeeping, and we’ve had very productive experience with our own Warre's.

Advantages of using Warre hives

  • Ideal for hands-off beekeepers
  • Simple management by the box rather than by the comb
  • Lighter boxes
  • Optional windows
  • Foundationless

Disadvantages of Warre Hives

  • More difficult to remove fragile Comb
  • Adding new combs to the bottom can be more difficult
  • Not Standard.There are many designs and less resources available
Warre Hive Window

HISTORY OF WARRE HIVES

Father Emile Warre(1867-1951) invented the Warre hive over a period of 50 years of investigation, ending in what he called “The People’s Hive” in in the late 1940's. Priest and life long Beekeeper Warre researched over 290 hive plans, all the way from straw skeps to the more up-to-date Langstroth design, checking their usefulness and how well they solved bee problems beekeepers faced. The target of Monk Warre's research was to find Bee Hive designs that showed maximum simplicity, ease of management and natural qualities including the building of natural comb (avoiding pressed foundation altogether) and also that the design preserved well nest scent and heat. Priest Warre did not agree with the tiresome and invasive frame by frame handling of individual frames commonly used by the beekeeping community to solve bee problems. Priest Warre's opinion was that it was better to manage the hive box by box only twice a year, instead of comb by comb every two weeks.

 

general hive management

 Priest Warre's hive consists of vertically piled up boxes with 8 top bars ( very similar to those found in the horizontal top bar hive) evenly spaced across the top of each hive box.The way a Warre is initially setup is with a swarm or package bees and 2 boxes. The bees build their own natural combs from the bars. The boxes are much smaller than those of the Langstroth hive -- around 12" square vs 19"x14". The reason is Monk Warre looked at bees in nature and found that the cavities in which they lived, and the swarms of bees within, were much smaller than the man-managed hives allowed for. Another way a Warre hive diverges from the Langstroth hive is that boxes are added to the BOTTOM of the hive rather than the TOP. Traditional Langstroth beekeepers, at first sight, think this idea is crazy. But the fact remains when one observes wild colonies living in trees or other natural spaces, they ALWAYS build comb from the top of the cavity downward. The main reason bees build upwards in Langstroth hives is because apiarists add the empty space on top.Honey Bees will expand in any direction they can.Furthermore, If you add empty space to the left or right (such as the horizontal top bar hive) the bees will build left or right. In Monk Warre's Hive they build down, like they do in a natural cavity setting and left to follow natural instincts. Warre's approach to the bee problems faced by beekeeping industry is unique to Warre Hive and it is quite a shift away from the techniques in vogue in Monk Warre's days.

Monk Warre would mostly add a two empty boxes to the bottom of the hive in the Spring and harvest the uppermost boxes from the hive (full of honey) in the Fall. Monk Warre's hive permits a solution few other hives offer: The permanent cycle of new comb into and old comb out of the hive without damaging destruction of the vital brood chamber, as every year prior to the Cold season(winter) the honey bees carrt the surplus honey stores to the upper most part of the hive.This hive management method eliminates the pesticide-ridden comb from the hive every couple years, making for a happier, healthier honey bee colony.

Having used Langstroth, horizontal top bar and Warre hives, we cast our vote for Priest Warre's hives for their obviousness , ease of management and high marks. We have had the best results ever with Warre hives than with any other hive design, and we don’t think this is by chance.

BEE INSTALLATION

To get going with a Warre Hive ,installing a bee package ,You need 2 boxes to start with leaving any extras for holding the feeder. Setup the bottom Warre box with eight bars and leave the Top Box empty.Stick the queen cage between 2 bars of the bottom box and make sure you take off the cap exposing the hard candy so the bees can free the queen.Open the Bee Package and shake the worker bees into the top box making sure to get as many as possible into the hive and lean the Package against the Warre's Hive entrance so the stragglers get into the hive . Now place the Warre's bars in the top box, put in place the separator canvas, quilt box, and finish up putting the hive roof into place.If You just have a swarm that already has a queen then the procedure is the same except there is not queen cage to fool around with.

MAINTENACE HIVE CHECKS

Priest Warre's hives were designed to require minimal to no maintenance. Priest Warre wanted apiarists to have the freedom to set up the Warre Hive with empty boxes in the bottom of the hive in the spring and gather a crop of full boxes of honey off the top of the stack in the fall. When working Priest Warre's Hive ,you have to understand this hives are thought out to be harvested by the box instead of by the individual comb. Priest Warre's hives grow naturally by additioning boxes with empty bars to the bottom of the tower. As bees work their way from the top down, and at the time their bottom most box becomes 75% full, an empty box can be added underneath. At the end of the bloom season(or whenever needed) surplus honey will be harvested off the top of the hive. In the next two beekeeping bloom months after having installed your bees, keep an eye on their growth by slightly lifting up the bottom box . Whenever you are quite positive the bottom box is filling with comb you can put in place another box or two as needed. When fall comes around, check the bottom boxes for comb and if you find them empty you can take them off until the colony is only has only 2-3 boxes. HoneyBees will stick comb to the side walls of hive boxes since they do not have a regular four sided frame. You will need a sharp L-shaped tool to detach the comb.Blisstime Stainless Frame Lifter and Scraper J Hook Tool is perfect for the job. Honey bees might also build bur combing from a top box to the top bars of the box right below. Remember that in a Warre Hive you will be forced to break the bur(extra) Combing also before lifting boxes off one another to avoid comb breakage, and can be done by cracking propolis build up on all 4 corners, and then running a piano wire or guitar string between the boxes. 

HONEY HARVEST

When you  have been handling your Warre hive by the box, rather than the individual combs, then you might also want to take off your crop by the box also. To do that you will have to push out the bees in the box. This can be accomplished using a bee escape board. After you stick the board between the honey supers and the boxes where you want the bees to stay ,you have to wait a couple days, especially when nights are getting cooler, and the honey critters will slowly move out of the supers, but will not be able to find their way back through the one way escape . Then you can easily take off the honey super from the hive and pull out the bars that contain honey comb. Then Cut the comb from the top bars(check out the Blisstain tool) , crush it up and filter it using a mesh bag and honey strainer.

OVERWINTERING

When fall comes around, check the bottom boxes for comb and if you find them empty you can take them off until the colony is only has only 2-3 boxes.

When "winterizing" your hives you have to be sure they have enough honey stores ,28-48 Lbs in most areas .If handling several colonies,you can honey spread the surplus between them all to be dead sure they all have sufficient. To be totally Organic beekeeper you may not want to feed your bees sugar syrup even though that remains as a possibility in extreme situations.It is a tough winter world out there So you have to make sure the last time you harvest them,you leave enough honey stores for your honey bees to overwinter unless you believe there will be enough Bee forage between the last harvest and winter for them to have enough time to restock their supplies of honey and pollen.

When you want to have 100% assurance your Honey bees will make it through the winter then make sure the Hive entrances available are reduced to a minimum to avoid heat loss.

In winter Warre bees will be quite concentrated in warming the hive.That is why the entrance will be more vulnerable to critters.In this case,a mouse guard is a must since it will prevent larger pests such as mice from getting in while still allowing bees to clean out the hive

"Warre hives come standard with a quilt box that regulates heat and humidity levels within the hive. The box comes with absorbant cedar toe that you will want to check periodically to ensure it's dry. If you feel any moisture it's a good idea to replace it. "Beethinking Warre management

Finally, since the boxes are square, you can turn every other box so that the top bars are perpendicular to the box directly above or below. "This will reduce the space for cold drafts to travel through the hive." Beethinking Warre management

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