Tuesday, February 3, 2015

To Warre or Not to Warre?

To bee, or not to bee- that is the question: 
Whether 'tis better in the Warre to install
The bees and queens of Southern packages 
Or to resist the waves and tides of haste, 
And by opposing make a better choice. 

I had thought to write this entire post as a parody of Hamlet's famous speech, but I figured that poor dead Shakespeare has suffered enough.

I've been very interested in The People's Hive for awhile, and I had planned to start a couple of them this year. However, I'm now reconsidering that decision.

Looking at this after uploading and thinking that the "Pros" should probably be in the lower end of the scale.
Maybe I was subconsciously thinking of Anubis weighing hearts against a feather.
When a heart was worthy, the feather dropped. Unworthy hearts would sink and be eaten.
I suppose that's not a very promising way to think of a beehive.

The reasons I'm interested in starting Warres are:

  • Footprint. They have a smaller footprint than KTBHs, and my backyard is getting kind of full now.
  • Low maintenance. They require less maintenance than KTBHs. As a mother of three with pets, house, and a consulting business, I've got more than enough on my plate. I like the idea of having less work. Also, Warres would be better for outyards, if/when I get to that point.
  • Honey. Last year, Sam Comfort, who has Langs, Warres, and KTBHs, told me that Warres make less honey than Langs, but much more than KTBHs. While I'm not in beekeeping strictly for honey, honey is nice.
  • Overwintering. Sam also mentioned his KTBHs overwinter better than Langs. However, the real star when it comes to overwintering, he said, were Warres.
The reasons I'm shying away from Warres are:
  • Storage. They require more storage space than KTBHs. The beauty of KTBHs is that everything is self-contained. Like Langs, Warres require space for storing boxes and bars that aren't in use. Clutter is not my friend.
  • Harder to inspect/manage. The People's Hive has bars that are nailed into place, which makes them hard to inspect or manage. Some people but the bars into grooves or use spacers to keep the bars movable, but my understanding is that the bees have a tendency to propolize them into place anyway.  Of course, according to Warre's description of his hive, ideally one is supposed to open the hive only twice a year, during spring and harvest. So this "design flaw" isn't really an issue if you're working Warre-style. However, after last year's swarming fiasco, I'm a bit gun-shy about not checking, particularly since I live in a suburban neighborhood that might not appreciate bees taking up residence in houses.
  • Harder to requeen. This is related to the reason above, but it's also my primary reason for holding off this year. Ideally, I'd like local, treatment-free, small-cell bees, but I missed out this year. As a result, I've been thinking about how to requeen a southern package with a local queen. No matter what option I consider, it seems like a hassle. 
So... that's the current plan anyway. I'll probably be having this same debate with myself, though, next year.


  1. I was looking forward to reading about your Warre adventures - guess I'll have to wait a year. ;-) It'll give you some time to finish your soliloquy, however.

    A couple of comments:

    - I don't do Langs for the storage issue, but I think Warre's would be slightly better. And I find that I'm building a collection spare nucs and other mini-hives which kinda defeats the whole storage issue. The one advantage of the Warre is that you don't have to store built comb once you harvest like with a Lang and worry about wax moths and such.
    - A friend of mine started beekeeping last year with a Warre and I think for the low maintenance, that was a good choice for her. She has windows in her hive which help greatly with the management/inspection. But mostly, it was set it up and let the bees do their thing and occasionally look through the windows to see if a new box needed to be added. She did have issues with trying to put the new box on below - that's where her hubby came in.
    - I understand about the small cell, treatment free idea, but locally bred bees probably originated somewhere else at one point. When I can only get bees from elsewhere, I look at that as a chance to build a new survivor stock and can gradually let them regress to small cell. But finding the queen in a Warre would be a challenge. Legally, the frames need to be moveable and I don't think the propolizing would be any worse than a Lang.

  2. I have one TBH and one Warre. I'm in love with them both. If the top bars were interchangeable, I'd be in heaven (if only I had bees). The TBH is definitely the winner re: storage space needed and ease of maintenance but the Warre is hands-down better when I need to "do" anything to my bees, like feed or treat (even if it is with sugar or something "benign"). The TBH simply does not have those options, at least not easily IMO. But options usually means more parts and accessories, so storage becomes an issue.

    FWIW I fitted some of my Warre top bars with self-spacing sidebars. Short ones. No pins or spacers needed. Easy inspection as the bees don't tend to attach comb to the box at all unless it's honeycomb.

    1. Good point about the Warre being easier to feed. TBHs are kind of a pain to feed when it's cold outside. In fact, this year, I don't think I'm even going to bother. But storage... that's what I love about KTBHs -- they're self-contained. One of these days I'll try a Warre, but I have to clear out some storage space first.


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!