We are now offering the Warré hives, designed by Emile Warré in the late 1800’s. Emile was a long standing French bee keeper who devoted much of his life to finding how best to keep his bees, and this hive was his winner. But how and why is it different?
As you can see, they look different from normal modern hives but what is important is how they work for the bees (and therefore for us as well):
- They are smaller with an internal cross sectional area about half what modern hives have. This is because in winter, the time the bees struggle to survive, they need a space they can keep warm in, and these hives allow that to happen because the bees fill a bigger proportion of it.
Emile needed his bees to survive in quite cold winter temperatures, so another element in these hives is a ‘quilt box’ – an insulated chamber the bees don’t get into located inside the roof section. It is like insulating your loft – makes total sense.
- In our case the insulant will be our milling waste – saw ‘flakes’ – which will either be from Western Red Cedar (not a true Cedar) or Cedar of Lebanon (which is) or possibly Blue Cedar (another true Cedar). The wood from the Cedars is highly scented, and the smell deters moths and other insects, some of which are potentially hazardous to the bees, so this is a delightfully efficient way to let nature help us and the bees.
- Another major problem for bees is excess moisture, so these hives have a solution for that too. The wood shavings, or in our case flakes, regulate it as they absorb the migrating excess moisture and then allow it to escape through the ventilation space above the ‘Quilt’.
- Bees evolved building their homes downwards. They set up their honeycombs and grow them down as any successful colony (hive) will necessarily have a growing bee population. Beekeepers need to expand the space they have as their colonies of bees grow so further hive boxes must be added. With modern hives the new box is added to the top of the hive (so the bees have to grow the honeycomb upwards) whereas with the Warré it is added at the bottom (so the bees do what they evolved to do).
With the Warré hive, the Hive Boxes already in use are lifted off the base; a new one added on top of the base, and the lived in Boxes put back on top of it – so the bees continue growing their home downwards.
- Bees also evolved attaching their ‘homes’ to whatever is at the top of the space they have chosen to inhabit. In modern hives we insert lots of frames into which the bees then have to build the combs, but in the Warré there are simply timber slats across the top of each hive box from which they hang them.
- There is at least one further difference – The Warré hives are much easier to tend and if we have provided much closer to what the bees would choose for themselves – they will live there as happily as possible with minimum intervention from us. After all, in the wild they didn’t get tended did they! And they didn’t die out!
So these hives are a much more natural way to keep bees, and they should reward us by thriving in them. By many more of us keeping bees we can only improve the situation they (and we) find ourselves in.
Any further observations can be sent to us.