Warre vs. top bar hive
Less well known than the top
bar hive is another alternative beekeeping box --- the Warre hive,
sometimes called a "vertical top bar hive." I have to admit that
I haven't read Abbe Warre's Beekeeping for All yet (although you can
download it for free by following the link.) The information
below is drawn from The
and is clearly biased toward the author's method.
Although Warre used
smaller boxes, his technique is very similar to the modified Langstroth
method I've used in the past (although less intrusive.) Warre
stacked small boxes (12 inches square and a bit over 8 inches deep)
just like in a Langstroth hive, with the major difference being that
his frames were merely top bars with wax strips. When the first
box was full of bees and honey, Warre slipped an empty box underneath
(similar to my swarm prevention in years past, but without the extra checkerboarding.)
Where Warre's method differs
most from mine is that he didn't believe in delving into the hive at
intervals to page through the frames. In fact, he actually fixed
his frames in place with nails and didn't mess with the bees at
all. When they had moved down into the lower box, he would slip
another empty box underneath and then take away the top box, harvesting
all of the honey out of it at once.
Warre's hive also
differs from Langstroth hives by containing a special, insulated
roof. Chandler argues that one of the problems with the
Langstroth hive is that the thin walls and roof cause condensation
within the hive in the winter, which makes the bees sick. Both
the Warre hive and the top bar hive deal with this problem by using
thicker wood and adding a sawdust layer to the inner lid.
PJ Chandler presented a
chart of pros and cons of the Warre hive versus his top bar hive, which you have to take with
a grain of salt since he clearly prefers the latter. Some
disadvantages he saw to the Warre method were:
- You have to store some boxes
when not in use. The top bar hive is all one piece, so you
block off empty areas but don't have to find space in the barn to store
- More physical strength is
required for the Warre hive. Each time you add a new box
underneath, you have to hoist up the heavy box of bees and honey.
On the other hand, the
Warre hive did win in one respect:
- Very low maintence.
The top bar hive requires much more regular maintenance, with the
beekeeper often checking in and adding another frame twice a week
during heavy nectar flows. On the other hand, when you do work
with the Warre hive, you need to allot more time and physical strength
to the project.
I have to admit that I
think I'd drive myself nuts not being allowed to look into the hive
using Warre's method. On the other hand, there's always the
potential of creating viewing windows in the sides of the boxes, and if
the Warre method was better for the bees, I'd be tempted to try it.
Has anyone had
experience with Warre and/or top bar hives? Do you know of other
reasons to choose one over the other?
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