Bjorn Apiaries

Warre Hive Beekeeping at Bjorn Apiaries

In the spring of 2009 we installed our first Warre hive at Bjorn Apiaries. The following is an assessment of our experiences.

We build and installed a Warre hive, to learn from some of the principles and observations of Abbe' Emile Warre' (D-1951) In reading his observations, there seems to be many good ideas in regards to stress, heat retention, comb building, and under supering. Many of which we already utilize in our own operation with other hives.

We made the Warre hive exactly as his protocol stated, with a few modifications such as an observation window. Throughout the year, the bees seemed to build up very quickly, and had little problems.


* The comb is naturally drawn in the Warre hive. We love this concept and management strategy. We use natural foundationless comb in our Top Bar Hives, standard hives, as well as other type hive.

* Moisture did not seem to be a factor. Warre hives use a "quilt" and a box of wood shavings for moisture absorption. This does seem to be effective.

* Under supering seems to promote good brood growth as the bees initially used the upper box and grew the brood chamber only when the dynamics of the hive allowed. Early spring buildup seemed very strong. (We do think that supering in a standard hive may interrupt the heat retained and utilized by the bees in spring brood buildup.)


* There is no readily available supply for Warre hives. So if you want one, you probably need to build it.

* As per the Warre protocol, opening the hive is done as little as possible. The comb is built using top bars and then the comb extends down to the top of the bars from the box placed below.This make moving combs for inspection without serious comb damage almost impossible. The smaller sized brood box used with the Warre hives, increases the comb attachment to the sides and bottom. The quilt will also be glued very well to the top of the bars.

* After 2 or 3 boxes, further under supering becomes a real effort due to the weight of the hive. You must actually pick the entire hive up to place a new box under the hive.

* We found that the best way to separate the boxes is by using a piano wire, pulling it through between the boxes. This presents a risk of killing bees that are in the way, and possibly to include the queen.

* There seemed to be a good amount of clustering of bees outside the hive all summer long. It seems that as much as heat retention was a positive in Warre's observations, there may also be a lack of air circulation.

* This type beekeeping requires (as per Warre protocol) very little interaction on the part of the beekeeper. Except for under-super and taking the honey off at the end of the summer, it would be very destructive and disruptive to open the hive on a regular basis. Warre advised against this for reasons of stress, loss of heat retention, etc. But lets call it what it is...a real problem inspecting your bees without destroying the combs.

Bjorn Apiaries promotes "Best Beekeeper" practices in regards to beekeeping in the communities that we operate. Part of those practices include swarm control. A Warre hive is not conducive to swarm prevention and knowing if your bees are getting ready to swarm. Some suggest that the Warre hives will actually stop swarming. We have found this to not be true. It may lessen the swarming urge by always providing open space below the brood chamber. But the bottom line is you just do not always know about swarming if you are not able to open up your hives.

Bjorn Apiaries also tries it's best to control genetic selection. Warre hives makes this very hard to accomplish. Not knowing if your hives swarmed, or not being able to go through each comb to find the queen when needed, makes the Warre hive very questionable in our opinion.

We love the Warre hive for what you can learn from it. Warre had many good observations and ideas. But he also lived in a time without small hive beetle, trachea mites, varroa mites, and a host of other bacterial and viral problems. Chemical and pesticide use may also be more of a concern today. A "hand-off" approach that Warre promoted 75 years ago may not be the best approach today.

But that does not mean we can not learn from the Warre hive. Such ideas as lowering stress, understanding heat retention and benefits, under supering for lowering the swarm impulse, and other ideas are all worth understanding. Many of these concepts can be used in other types of hives.

Showing your hives to others, inspecting your bees, and learning more than what you see at the front door, are all but lost with Warre hive beekeeping. It is not for everyone.

We are not out to promote or come out against Warre hive beekeeping. It is something to learn from. And we hope that passing along our observations without any agenda or bias is helpful to others. They are unique, interesting, and you can learn much from them. But we can not honestly promote these for beginners.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Added 1-2-12


Many of the items we do not like about Warre hives and the previous protocol suggested for management, is quickly changing. Previous items such as claims about Warre hives not swarming due to constant undersupering, has now been changed to embrace swarming for brood breaks and mite control.


The protocol in the past included only using top bars. This of course caused many problems and was a major item detriment to Warre hives. Now, the protocol has been changed to embrace frames for use within the Warre hive.


And protocol of the past had beekeeper almost never going into the Warre hive due to heat loss and stress placed upon the bees. You were only supposed to open the hive perhaps twice per year, for such items as honey harvesting. Now, to promote sustainability, it is suggested much more intrusive practices be employed such as splitting, harvesting queens cells, etc.


So the negative impact of the Warre protocol has been brought forward many times. And now, in the name of sustainability, mite control, and other items being rationalized, the original Warre hive protocol is being changed.


We still will not blindly promote such a hive. And as the Warre crowd continues to change the original Warre protocol, we can only wonder where it will stop. Hardcore Warre hive followers will no doubt continue to bash all other types of hives as less natural, harmful to bees, and kept by honey-money ignorant beekeepers. That, we are sure of. And one item we do not agree with.