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

Modifying a Langstroth hive to mimic a Warre hive

Warre and Langstroth hives

I hadn't really intended to get back into Langstroth beekeeping anytime soon, but when the bees speak, I listen.  I figured I might as well leave our new swarm in the boxes they chose...with a few modifications.

My first step in the modification process was to brainstorm the primary features of a Warre hive, and ways I might easily modify the Langstroth hive to serve the same purpose:

Warre hive feature
Possible retrofit to Langstroth
Insulation and winter drip prevention
Modify an extra super to become a quilt.  (Easy.)
Fancy roof
Air flow?
Built a similar roof.  (Hard.)
Small entrance
Not positive, but bees select for this in the wild, so it must be important, perhaps in guarding the hive and/or maintaining Nestduftwarmebindung.
Entrance reducer. (Easy.)
Thick hive walls
Rebuild boxes out of thicker boards.  (Hard.)
Top bars
Prevent varroa mites using small cell size.
Foundation strips.  (Easy.)
Smaller boxes
Winter temperature maintenance?
(I don't like the idea of using all supers instead of deeps, which would be easy, and am not sure this is actually an important feature of the Warre hive.)
Hive opened only once a year
Maintain Nestuftwarmebindung and don't make bees waste propolis.
Raise up base of hive so I can photograph underneath and monitor bees' progress that way.  (Moderate.)
A subset of the feature above.
Add larger handles on sides of the boxes so entire hive can be raised at once for nadiring.  (Easy.)
Allow swarming
Creates a break in disease cycle.
Don't use swarm prevention techniques.  (Easy.  But, this is one feature of a Warre hive I might consider ditching in the long run since it drastically reduces honey production.  The health of the bees is my first priority, though, so I'm keeping it for now.)
Queen works throughout hive.
Allows cycling of wax if you crush and strain, which prevents disease.
Don't use excluder, do nadir, and remove honey from top.  (Easy.)

Once we get a spare minute in the garden, I plan to apply the easiest of these features to our Warre hive, notably the quilt and raising the box up so I can slide my camera underneath.  (I already installed foundation strips so the bees will build most of their own wax.)  The bees shouldn't need to be nadired this year since they already have the equivalent of four Warre hive boxes, but Mark and I will plan to suit up (or wait until winter) and add handles to the boxes before next spring.  It will be interesting to see whether a Langstroth hive with a few simple modifications will be as effective as the more expensive and less common Warre equipment.

Our chicken waterer keeps your flock healthy so they can spend their energy hunting for bugs.

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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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