Monday, 14 February 2011

Warré Hive Introduction

This year we have decided to go back to building Warré hives at our member's hive building workshop day (30th April 2011 - see 2011 dates page).

Warré made from recycled
pallets with 2 starter boxes
(click any image to enlarge)
The Warré hive is cheap and simple yet makes an ideal hive for those starting beekeeping for the first time and is the perfect introduction to natural beekeeping. Indeed, there are many of us, including me, who feel that the Warré is THE hive for natural beekeeping as it allows the bees to manage their own affairs and leaves them virtually undisturbed to do what they do best.

That is not to say that Warré beekeeping is about leaving your hives to luck. Far from it; as a beekeeper you are fully responsible for ensuring that your bees stay healthy and disease free whilst in your care. However, the way that you do this in a Warré hive is far different. You need to learn to read your bees, spend time observing them to notice differences in behaviour, mood and demeanour. You will watch them and note what they are bringing into and taking out of the hive just like the beekeepers of old used to do. In all of this you will become so much more of an expert than were you to rip your bee's home apart each week just to inspect their internal workings.

The best way to start on this journey is to learn all you can before starting, both about the principles and techniques of Warré beekeeping and about the biology and physiology of those wonderful creatures the bees themselves. The following is a list of some of the Warré resources available for you to read as part of this preparation. A further page will be added giving resources you can investigate on the bee.

Rooftop Warré with
modified varroa floor
Everyone in YABeeP who takes up Warré beekeeping will be expected to familiarise themselves with this information - remember you, and only you, are responsible for your bees.

Information on the Warré system
'Beekeeping for All' (book/web) - The best place to start is to read the book 'Beekeeping for All' written by Abbé Emile Warré himself . This book, translated into English by Patricia and David Heaf, can either be bought as a published print edition (link) or downloaded as a free pdf download (8,660 KB), though the download is 155 pages long so makes a very large print job should you choose not to read it on screen. Bear in mind it was last revised in 1948 so Warré's writing style has dated though it contains excellent information.

The Bee-Friendly Beekeeper - Dr. David Heaf (book) available from bookshops or direct from the publisher here. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough - it should be on every natural beekeeper's bookshelf whatever type of hive they use. It gives the best argued and referenced reasons to go down the natural beekeeping route, includes much on sustainability and draws on the wealth of knowledge David gets from the international Warré forum he runs - order it now!

Warré hive construction plan (375KB download) - A free pdf download © David Heaf showing the construction plans for a standard Warré hive - YABeeP members please see the footnote1. Please note that the plans have an error that David is aware of in that the quilt box dimensions are shown as 340 x 340mm external, the same as the boxes. According to Abbé Warré the quilt should be 5mm less than the boxes (335 x 335) to allow the hesian to be wrapped up the sides to wick off moisture - see here for a picture. For a photo guide on construction see the Warrébeek website hive construction pages.

Online resource (web) - There is plenty of excellent information on the web. The best place to start is the Warré Beekeeping entry page on the Natural Beekeeping Network (aka Biobees website). Just follow the links on the left hand side for further gateways into the Warré beekeeping world.

Towards Sustainable Beekeeping (web article) – this pdf download (570KB) of a four-part article by David Heaf serialised in The Beekeeper's Quarterly 2008, supplemented with ethical introduction provides excellent reading

Internet Forums
Warrés in winter
Natural Beekeeping Network Warre section.

'Why I Worry about the Warré' response - This excellent paper was written by David Heaf in response to an article that a former Chairman of the BBKA, who really should have known better, wrote criticising the Warré hive. In 7 pages it neatly covers each aspect of the hive and illustrates exactly why they are so good - it makes a great summary paper on the benefits of the Warré. If you want to see the original article to put the response in context it can be downloaded from the Warré Yahoo Group website here.

'At the Hive Entrance' (Book) by H. Storch - "How to Know what happens inside the hive by observation of the outside." This out of print book is prized by beekeepers but can often be picked up here or occasionally at Amazon here.

Resources on the YABeeP website
Finishing touches to a Warré (vertical) hive
How to Modify a standard Warré floor
Warré hive lift
Moving a swarm into your Warré hive
Should I site my hive in the shade or sun?

Fanning workers move into a Warré hive

Remember, this list is far from exhaustive. There is so much to learn about bees. Hopefully this will get you started on the research phase of your learning. The really exciting part is yet to come - learning from your own bees. The more you learn now, the more confident you will be when this time comes and, don't forget, as a YABeeP member you will have the support and resource of a friendly group around you.

© Robin Morris - YABeePFacebook smileys
14 Feb 2011

Footnote 1: YABeeP members thinking of doing their own work and making/preparing their own Warré hive before our 30th April Hive Building Workshop need to be aware that we shall be suggesting making an adapted version of his hive to slightly different dimensions (internal dimensions of 300 x 365 rather than Warré's 300 x300mm). This is to make it easier to install bees for those getting their bees on nucs.