Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Finishing touches to a Warré (vertical) hive (2011)

Having built the woodwork for your Warré hive there are still some finishing touches before it is ready for your bees:

[Please note: This page was written in 2011 for our 2011 class. It has been updated and improved for 2012 here - LINK]

1. Handles
Make sure that you have added robust handles to each side of your hive as per Warré's plans - make them from at least 1" (25 cm) wood. These need to be securely glued and screwed to the side of your hive. Remember, you may be lifting the whole hive using the handles on the bottom box and a full hive is very heavy! Over time the boxes rotate so any box could be the bottom one.

2. Weather proofing
You need to seal the exterior of the hive from the elements but do NOT paint the inside of the hive with any form of treatment - the bees will do this themselves with propilis.
The best external treatment is a probably mix of linseed oil and bees wax which you need to gently heat before application to ensure that the wax is melted and mixed. However, you can similarly use a non-poisonous shed or fence treatment - make sure it is one that can be spilt onto plants without damaging them. You can also paint with a breathable emulsion paint eg. a quality exterior emulsion or whitewash - be creative in your use of colours! If painting man-made weatherproofing ensure that none of it trickles inside the hive and allow a good couple of weeks for it to air before introducing your bees.

3. Quilt box
This provides the breathable insulation to your hive. You need to add a floor to this quilt box
to retain the insulation. Use Warré's design - a piece of hessian sacking with which you cover the base of the quilt box and wrap it up the sides using staples, tacks or flour paste to attach it to the quilt box frame. If you can't get hessian use any natural breathable loose woven material. Moisture needs to permeate through this layer so do not use man-made material. If you use recycled hessian sacking make sure that you thoroughly wash it before use as it may have been previously painted in insecticide to protect its contents. The hessian that wraps up the sides needs to be folded neatly so that it doesn't foul the hive roof. 

Now fill the box with a breathable natural material - sawdust, straw, wool, etc. Again do not use man-made material such as glass fiber, polystyrene chips, etc.. Check the condition of your insulation material each autumn when you manipulate your hive ready for winter and to take off the excess honey - replace any tired or mildewy material.

At first glance the quilt/roof system seems to defy logic as there is a wall of solid wood from the roof box which sits directly on this quilt box preventing the damp from dissipating upwards. However, his quilt design is very clever as the moisture in the quilt doesn't vent upwards like a chimney - this would create a draft for the bees. Instead it is wicked out by the piece of hessian below the quilt box which is protected from the element by the roof and dissolves into the atmosphere. Smart chap that Emilé!

4. Bee Proof Barrier
A second piece of hessian, or similar. is also stuck to the top of the upper most bee box. The best way to do this is to mix a small bowl of flour and water paste - make the mix quite thick and sticky, place the hessian atop the top most box then paint the hessian down with the paste. When it has dried you should find it has stuck to the top bars and upper surface of the sides. Trim off any excess and voila. This paste soaked top provides 2 functions - first the starch in the flour stops the bees from chewing through the hessian an second the stuck down roof to the top box can make it easier to pour in your bees when you get them.

The bees will regulate the passage of air into the quilt by filling or unblocking the pores in the quilt barrier dependant on the outside atmosphere and season - they had cracked home insulation long before man was invented!

5. Hive stand
Your hive needs to be stood firm, level and off the ground, away from the wet. I would recommend standing the floor on a leveled paving slab or similar onto which you place a couple of builder's breeze blocks. Make sure it is perfectly vertical and steady. If there is any risk of it being knocked by any passing traffic then use a ratchet strap to bind the hive together - thread under the floor, up the side and through the vent in the roof box.

6. Siting & Securing your hive
Place your hive where you will have access all around it. When you have to lift it in the spring or do your autumn manipulations you will need room to move. You may also need to fit a hive lift behind it and/or accommodate a helper as a hive full of honey and stores is very heavy!

If it is in a garden which will have other human traffic then face the entrance towards a hedge, fence or similar about 1 or 2 meters away from it. The bees will then be forced up over head level by the barrier. Bee traffic behind the hive is very minimal so unsuited passers by can happily move too an frow behind the hive.

Do not place your hive where cattle (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) can reach it as they will knock it over - to them it makes an excellent scratching post! If in a field with animals ensure that you securely fence it off. Similarly, make sure that your hive is away from public view. You'd be amazed what a great target it makes for stone-throwing vandals. Similarly, many members of the public (and your neighbours!) may be irrationally scared of bees. 'Out of sight, out of mind' is always a healthy bee keeping policy.

For additional security you can use a ratchet strap (see picture) to strap the hive into one unit. That way, if it does get knocked over it should not fall apart. I would recommend that you don't use the cheap straps as their webbing can rot in just a few months making them useless. If the hive is possibly going to get knocked by animals, children's balls, etc. you can either place it on a paving slab and tie the ratchet strap around that as well as a base weight, or use a couple of steaks in the ground either side (I use the corkscrew 
dog anchors - see photo) and strap the hive to those.
Strap the hive to dog lead anchors

And finally......
If YABeeP has agreed to supply you with a swarm of bees then once your hive is 100% ready drop the top box off with Robin - that's the one with the hessian stuck to the top with flour/water paste. When your turn comes the bees will be collected in your box using the YABeeP special swarm catcher. This makes installation simple for you,you just place the box with bees back on your hive and off you go!

If you have any other questions or queries, or think that other explainations should be added here please Email us
© Robin Morris - YABeePFacebook smileys


Anonymous said...

Interesting. The plans I saw* didn't mention the second cloth - the one on top of the box - only the one making up the bottom of the quilt.

If you paste the cloth to the top of the top box, how do you cope with the rotation of boxes? When you take the top box off to harvest, do you have to peel it off and refasten it to the box that's now on top?


YABeeP said...

Reply to Abonymous:
The cloth under the quilt box is to keep the quilt filling in place.

In his book Warre suggests that you stick a hessian cloth on top of the top bee box - page 42 of the 12th edition translated by Pat Chetney & David Heaf 7/2007 even shows an illustration. This cloth needs to be painted with flour/water paste. As well as stifening this cloth the starch in the paste stops the bees from chewing the cloth - in effect a bee barrier.

It is only stuck on with flour/water so is easily peeled off and reinserted above the new top box when you rotate the boxes.


Anonymous said...

Super, thanks. I'd have missed that bit out #>_<#