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

Keeping an eye on warre hives

New comb

A couple of weeks ago, I opted to super (rather than nadir) our larger warre hive.  If you're interested, you'll want to follow that link for more on the pros and cons, but since I wrote my original post, I've realized there's one more major disadvantage to the action.  Supering the hive makes it impossible to guess what's going on inside using a simple photograph up through the screened bottom rather than using an invasive search through the boxes.

In contrast, I nadired the smaller hive three weeks ago, which has allowed me to keep a close eye on the bees' progress.  The sourwood started petering out soon thereafter and the "yellow flowers" (as my beekeeping mentor refers to wingstem, woodland sunflowers, goldenrod, etc.) have only barely started up.  So I wasn't surprised to see that that daughter colony has just now begun to build the first piece of new comb in its third box.

Bottom of a warre hive

With 20/20 hindsight, I'm now figuring that the smarter tack when choosing to super a warre hive is to add two boxes at the same time, figuring any empty space can be deleted when I delve back into the hive to collect honey.  And I think there's a good chance we will be harvesting honey from our mother hive this year since sources on the internet suggest that two warre-hive boxes (one of honey and one of brood) are sufficient to keep a colony going through the winter months unless you live in the far north.  We currently have at least three full boxes on that hive, with the super being the wild card that could bring us up to four.

Since I don't want to repeat last year's disaster of removing brood when I thought I was removing honey, I'll be waiting until mid to late September to steal the sweet stores.  At that point, the queen should have moved down lower into the hive and left the honey unaldulterated in the top box or two, making robbing relatively painless.

It's been a long wait to get significant honey from our warre hives, and I can see how that could turn many apiarists off the method.  On the other hand, either the hive or the chemical-free bees we put into them have resulted in at least one colony that seems able to survive without chemical intervention.  Here's hoping the daughter hive will be just as vigorous, surviving the winter and perhaps giving us a honey harvest in 2015.

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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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