HIVE: What is a “Warre Bee Hive”?

Warre Beehive from Bee4Ever

22 January 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

Abbe Emil Warre designed what has come to be known as the Warre beehive. Aiming at the most inexpensive hive possible (Warre called it the “People’s Hive”), his design was inspired by a natural and much more ancient beehive design: the hollowed-out log.

The Warre hive is one of those rather rare top-bar hives with a vertical rather than horizontal design. So, Warre’s top-bar beehive profile stands tall instead of long – a characteristic it shares with the Perone’s top-bar vertical design.

With its vertical profile of stacked boxes, the Warre’s profile looks little different than of a Langstroth-style hive. But almost everything about the Warre is a bit different.

The Warre is a top-bar style hive although its use of frames and guides allow it maintain an efficient bee space. This prevents eventually destructive comb attachments by the building bees. The hive is “under-supered” – new boxes are added to the bottom of the hive stack instead of the top.

The top is a “quilt” box when contains cloth enclosing saw dust. This allows air to pass through the box, but not moisture. Warre introduced the quilt box to deal with an issue common to the Langstroth and similar hive designs. In winter, moisture accumulation inside the hive boxes and promote the growth and spread of certain diseases.

Although the Warre hive fell into relative obscurity after the inventor’s death in 1951, Warre was a bit ahead of his time. He built his hive to match the bees natural habits and believed that the more the bees were left alone, the better – for the bees and the honey. With that philosophy, his hive designed was destined to return to popularity – at least as a popular hive with amateurs beekeepers concerned about more natural approaches to beekeeping.

Experienced users give the Warre hive a special distinction – one that is popular with, at least, modern amateur beekeepers: The Warre is the most “hands-off” or “leave it alone” hive they’ve ever used.


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