The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Observing a young Warre hive

Young bee colonyFrom my paucity of apiary posts lately, you would be forgiven for thinking that when my bees absconded, my beekeeping enthusiasm left with them.  However, the truth is that the package we installed in our Warre hive has been bulking up nicely --- I've just been following the rules and leaving the hive closed.

Due to the wonders of modern technology, though, I can refrain from cracking open the hive and can still get an idea of what's going on inside.  Once a week, I snap a shot through the screened bottom board.  The photos are generally subpar in terms of quality, but do let me keep an eye on the bees' progress.

We installed the package on April 27, and the first photo in this post shows what the bees looked like two days later.  They were simply a tight cluster of bodies enclosing the queen, who was still trapped in her cage.
New comb
Eleven days after installation, my non-intrusive inspection showed a little bit of comb being built.  If I'd opened the hive, I would have been able to see whether the queen was laying, and on the off-chance she wasn't, could have ordered a replacement queen.  With a Warre hive, you have to simply hope for the best (and pay attention to the hive's mood, smell, and sound).

Warre hive entranceSixteen days after installation, I could have discovered a lot by opening the hive.  The presence of eggs would tell me the queen was still alive and well, and now I could look at the capped brood to determine whether she had been properly inseminated.  (Lots of drone brood and little worker brood could be a sign of a queen who didn't have sex with enough drones during her mating flight.)  However, when I received an improperly mated queen three years ago, I chose to let the workers supersede her and turn one of the eggs into a queen of their choice, so the truth is I wouldn't have done anything if I'd seen too much drone brood in the two week old hive anyway.  Of course, since I was working with a Warre hive, I didn't even have this decision to make --- I could still see comb in my photos (too blurry to share), and the workers were definitely bringing pollen in, so I chose to assume all was well.

Screened bottom board

Twenty-three days after installation (this past Sunday), I finally saw something within my hive that required work on my part.  The bottom box was starting to look nearly full up!  Inside Warre hiveAssuming the queen is laying well, this is about the time the first new workers should pop out of their cappings, which means the colony could grow even more quickly from here on out.

Since I started the hive with two boxes, I can't tell whether the bees have filled the top box as well, but there's no reason not to hoist the bees up and put another box underneath (known as nadiring).  This process preserves the hive scent and temperature, and is the least intrusive method of increasing a bee colony's living area.  Looks like it's time to build another box this week and take our first real peek inside the hive since we took out the queen cage!

Our chicken waterer makes care of your backyard flock so easy, you have time to take up beekeeping.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What's the difference between another box and another hive? I'm guessing the new box is sort of like an addition to your house, and in this case, sits on top of the hive, if that suits the hive?
Comment by adrianne Tue May 22 13:04:00 2012

Mom --- Good question! Your guess is right, except that in a Warre hive, you put the new box underneath so that you don't have to take off the lid and let out the hive's heat and scent. So, to stick with your house analogy, we'll be giving the hive a basement.

In the more common, Langstroth system, the new box is called a super, but I didn't want to use that word since it implies you're putting something on top rather than underneath.

Comment by anna Tue May 22 13:21:49 2012
I suppose that you could call the new Warre box a "Sub" since it is below the others....
Comment by Eric in Japan Tue May 22 20:20:36 2012
Eric --- Good word choice! I need to read back through my Warre beekeeping book and see if they already have a name, but if not, I'm going with yours. :-)
Comment by anna Wed May 23 07:23:34 2012

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