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How much honey does a Warre hive need for the winter?

Honeybee on Virgin's BowerIn our region, the summer is a bit of a lull for bees, with few uncultivated plants in bloom.  If you have fields of white clover or buckwheat, your colony may thrive, but otherwise, the bees are likely to eat through a lot of their spring honey and come into the fall with few stores.

Luckily, asters, goldenrod, ragweed, virgin's bower, and other plants start blooming in late August and help the bees stock back up.  But the beekeeper still needs to be proactive because the window for fall feeding closes rapidly as daytime temperatures plummet, making it too chilly to dehydrate sugar water into honey.  So now's a good time to be thinking about the hive's winter honey, which led me to research how much honey a Warre hive needs to get through the winter.

Beekeepers report that the more insulated design of Warre hives reduces the bees' need for honey when compared to a Langstroth hive, but by how much?  The official word on Warre hive care comes from the method's founder who left 26 pounds of honey (one of his smaller hive bodies full).  However, American beekeepers need to keep in mind that Warre lived in a mild, European climate, meaning that most of us will probably need to ensure our bees have more winter honey.

Warre hive entrance

A search of the internet turned up a few solid data points from American Warre beekeepers.  An apiarist in Portland (zone 8b) leaves a single box of honey per colony, like Warre does, while a zone 5 beekeeper adds a second box.  Both report that they overwinter with one box of brood below the one or two boxes of honey stores.

To play it safe in our zone 6 climate, I'm going to follow the lead of the zone 5 beekeeper and make sure our bees have at least two full boxes of honey going into winter.  What I haven't decided is when to delve into the hive and estimate their honey stores before deciding about whether or not to feed.  Suggestions?

Our chicken waterer makes care of the flock easy and worry-free.

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no harm done in having more stores than they need, but an ounce short & the bees never know what spring will bring; it may be colder or wetter than normal..

also avoid disturbing the bees after the weather turns cool; you want to give them time to get their hive ready for winter while the propolis is still pliable..

caveat: no experience with warre hive...

Comment by rjs Wed Aug 29 18:01:15 2012
rjs --- The propolis buildup is another excellent reason to check early rather than late. And you've got a good point about feeding, since this was a package this spring. Maybe I'll check on them next week to get an idea of how much honey they have and then feed for a while.
Comment by anna Thu Aug 30 09:05:43 2012

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