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

What I like about the Warre beekeeping method

Adapter to change from a warre to langstroth hiveAs I've mentioned, I like parts of both the Warre and Langstroth hive systems. So even though we're currently converting our colony from the former to the latter, I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Warre methods. Here are some Warre components I'm considering incorporating into our new system:

  • The insulated "quilt" box. I can't see anything not to love about helping the hive retain heat in the winter by adding a layer of insulation on top. However, straw doesn't seem to be the best filler material since it breeds ants. I'm thinking of transferring over to a sheet of solid styrofoam insulation in the next iteration of the hive.
  • Leaving the bees alone as much as possible. In all honesty, I suspect this is why bees survive so well in Warre hives, and I hope to maintain hands-off methods despite returning to Langstroth boxes.
  • Nadiring instead of supering. I'm undecided on this one. On the one hand, nadiring makes it possible for me not to disrupt the hive while still knowing when the bees need more space, since the empty box is just above the screened bottom board and can be examined photographically. On the other hand, nadiring becomes physically difficult once a hive reaches a certain size, and one of the reasons to return to the Langstroth hive is to get more (heavy) honey. I suspect I might use the modified Warre method of nadiring the first box or two in the spring, then supering for later honey flows.

By the way, I should mention that the primary reason we're converting our Warre hive back to Langstroth is because both places we ordered bees from this year fell through. One company changed their shipping method to the US Postal Service (which I'm okay with) but refused to insure the bees traveling that way (which I'm not okay with). The other company pushed back their shipping date twice and then threw in the towel and said they wouldn't be sending out bees at all this year. Two refunds behind me, I figured I'd better focus on the hive I have on hand. Maybe next year we'll be able to expand our apiary and will be able to put what I'm learning this year to use!

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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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You have had bees around for years now, yet I've never read of you enjoying the first taste of honey. Have you had any harvest, or deferred the pleasure to "save the bees"?

Comment by tom Tue May 12 08:49:27 2015
tom --- Good question! We did have honey harvests when we were using Langstroth hives, which is why we're going back in that direction. Unfortunately, the bees in our Langstroth hives kept dying.... So, I'm looking for a middle ground --- honey for me and life for the bees.
Comment by anna Tue May 12 09:46:49 2015
Have you figured out why the bees in the Langstroth hives die? Have you contacted any local beekeepers to find out if they're having the same problem?
Comment by NaYan Tue May 12 10:18:19 2015
We purchased bees this year from Goldstar Bees for our top bar hive we built last year. We are new beeks and hope the tbh works out for us and the bees. We just installed them on Saturday and have been enthralled since.
Comment by Susan Tue May 12 13:20:25 2015

Moisture quilts on a Langstroth are definitely possible. I made one last year out of a shallow super box with landscape fabric stapled to the bottom, and filled the box part way up with wood shavings. I would probably use some other kind of cloth than landscape fabric next time, since the stringy fibers ended up catching a few bees. Another beekeeper I talked to said he liked the idea of the moisture quilt, but would have filled the box all the way up with shavings. Couldn't hurt!

Caveat: my bees didn't make it through the winter, but I don't think it had anything to do with moisture buildup.

Comment by Jake Tue May 12 23:18:16 2015

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