7 responses

  1. Tonia Moxley
    March 20, 2012

    Great post, Phillip! I just heard Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries speak. He’s doing small, homemade Warre hives in upstate New York, and having success. Because they’re small, he doesn’t need the lifting apparatus.

    I’m also thinking about throwing a Warre into my apiary.

    I know you’ve posted that foundationless doesn’t seem to work for you because they produce a lot of drones. But from my reading, hives in the wild have lots of drones. They divert mites and other pests away from the worker brood, apparently. And their larger comb is easily backfilled with honey, according to some sources. Some alternative beekeepers call this a “droneright” colony.

    Anyway, I’m doing foundationless Langstroth, Kenyan top bars and maybe a small warre this spring in Virginia, so if I develop any deep insights, I’ll let you know.

    Best of luck.

    • Phillip
      March 20, 2012

      A quick note: I made several tweaks to this post since I uploaded it a few hours ago.


      Hi Tonia,

      Our froundationless Langstroth hive didn’t do so well last year. Easily 1/3 of the frames were packed with drones. I think we got maybe 3-4 medium frames of honey from that hive in total. Our other conventional hive started at the same time produced almost 20 medium frames. The foundationless hive went into winter with a smallest population of bees and seemed to run low of honey stores early.

      But we also had a bad spring and summer, and I did a few things to that hive that probably knocked it back a bit. So who knows. This summer will be the test. If that hive thrives, then I may have to change my mind on the whole affair.

      I don’t believe everything I hear about foundationless hives or Warré hives. I think people often exaggerate or make claims based on speculation instead of scientific facts. But I do appreciate certain aspects of the Warré approach. A lot of it seems sensible to me.

      Please let me know if you discover anything new about all this. I’m very interested in it.

  2. Mil
    March 27, 2012

    Hope you are feeling better.

    I wanted to read David Heaf’s translation of Warre’s book after reading Wisdom of the Bees, contemporary rendering of Steiner’s bee book. I have been interested in Warre hives for some time, but I too am not sure if it is the most perfect hive ever.

    I just went to the 6th Annual Bee Symposium where my teacher Serge Labesque spoke and he compared a bee tree to a hive and concluded that there is no perfect hive. One important takeaway was that the tree could absorb all the moisture from the hive.

    We’ve been using follower boards in conjunction with the Serge-style hive top feeder and ventilation board. Even though we use Langs, we’ve never had a problem with moisture in our hives.

    Thank you for all that info.

  3. Tonia Moxley
    March 27, 2012

    I’ve now printed out and read the Warre book from your link. I’m hooked now. Next year, I’m going to start a Warre out yard. I have a friend with a farm nearby, but I didn’t think I would get out there often enough to work hives. With Warre, I don’t have to work them. And they’re easier to build than top bars. Can’t wait to try it.

  4. Phillip
    April 23, 2012

    I bought some lumber over the weekend so I could start making my own Langstroth hive components. Bottom boards, inner covers and top covers (except for the metal sheeting) are easy. But it turns out the lumber sold as 10 inches wide is only 9-1/4 inches — and I need 9-5/8 inches to make deep supers.

    I wish the people who live in Lumberland would do away with the antiquated custom of labelling lumber with the pre-finished dimensions instead of the actual dimensions of the wood after it’s gone through the planner. A piece of lumber sold as 1″ x 10″ x 6′ is actually 3/4″ x 9-1/4″ x 5′-11/16″. That is so annoying. Anyway…

    We’ll have to add a 3/8-inch rim to the bottom of each deep super to make them the correct height. A bit of pain, but it won’t kill us.

    As an alternative to making those rims, I came up with a design for deep supers that uses common — and cheap — the 9-1/4 wide planks. I have designs for cheap bottom boards, inner covers and top covers too. The inner covers and top covers aren’t the same size as standard covers (they wouldn’t be interchangeable with standard components).

    But if a hobbyist beekeeper wanted to make their own Langstroth hives out of common cheap lumber, the total cost for a single complete hive would come to something like $35 — less if they went with scrap wood for some parts. The hives, according to the designs we drew up, require only straight cuts in the wood and some screws. Minimal tools, minimal carpentry skills.

    We’ve decided not to follow our designs because we don’t want to start mixing up our standard components with non-standard components. But if I was a hobbyist beekeeper with no intentions for more than 2 or 3 hives — with no need to buy standard components except frames — I’d go for it.

    I’ve never seen simple D.I.Y. plans for Langstroth-type hives online. I wonder why. It would make beekeeping more affordable to hobbyists, especially in Newfoundland.

    I’ll post our designs perhaps later in the summer when we’ve made a hive from our designs — and have made sure they work. In the meantime, a Warré hive modified to fit Langstroth frames might do the trick. I would definitely go that route if I only wanted a couple hives.

  5. Phillip
    April 24, 2012

    I think I’ll be heading in the Warré direction once I have more established hives and can afford to experiment. Probably next year. Here’s a curious mash up of the Warré design:


  6. Chuck
    April 11, 2013

    I’ve always found Warre’s system both intriguing and a contradiction at the same time. I run a few garden hives in Warre’s and I have a love/hate relationship with them. I’ve found it doesn’t quite work the way it’s advertised, for a couple of reasons.

    First is the bee inspector. We’re required to have moveable frames for inspection. (I have many other hives and have had the inspector show up before) So to keep the frames moveable I have to regularly manipulate the frames to keep them from cross-combing and attaching to the walls etc. Modern hive hygene requires me to be in there checking the bees regularly anyway. I need to often get in and check for varroa, foulbrood etc. I don’t think this was as much of an issue in Warre’s time. I also live in a rural/semi-suburban area and can’t afford to let a swarm lose in the area – regular checks are necessary to see if they are making preparations.

    I do like the idea of regularly rotating out comb and the Warre system keeps you honest on that. But that is a contradiction with all the “natural” references made about Warre hives. In nature the combs would age and get very old and this certainly would have been true in Warre’s time. Comb rotation would have been a natural contradiction then, but has modern benefits that we all know and understand with our chemical issues – it just happens to work for us now.

    I don’t mind working the combs. It’s relaxing. I enjoy it. But it’s often time consuming when the comb gets messy. It’s hard on the back sometimes to lift boxes off to put new ones on the bottom, and ideally you could do this without taking the whole hive apart, but since modern beekeeping requires so much manipulation anyway, I have to take mine apart like any other Langstroth I have and put it back together. I did them because I wanted to touch the history a little bit. You could easily pull off the same comb/box rotation system with Langstroth hives and save a little comb manipulation though.

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