Monday, February 7, 2011

The Warre Hive

Some individuals are attracted to beekeeping’s lack of complicated modern technologies. In fact, most of the great inventions of modern beekeeping occurred in the mid-1800s. They include L. L. Langstroth’s 1851 removable frame hive, beeswax foundation for hive frames, the honey extractor, and the beekeeper’s smoker. While the durable Langstroth hive is the one most widely used to house managed colonies of honey bees, there are others. The Warre hive, pronounced “war-ray,” and the Kenyan top bar hive are two hives that use only wooden bars to support the sheets of honeycomb instead of complete frames. The Warre hive stands vertically and resembles a Langstroth hive in outward appearance. Brood nest and honey storage boxes are similarly stacked atop each other. The unique element of a Warre hive is the upper box, which slightly overhangs the hive. This box has a sloping, vented roof and a canvas floor. The box is filled with straw or other moisture-absorbing material to help control the atmosphere in the hive as well as hold hive scents. Abbe Emile Warre, who developed this arrangement in France and called it the “People’s Hive,” felt that it allowed the bees to control the temperature, humidity, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels within the hive.

With the combs hanging unsupported from top bars in both Warre hives and Kenyan top bar hives, honey harvesting is destructive of the beeswax combs. Most honey is harvested by mashing the comb and draining the honey. Without full support of the combs as in the Langstroth hives, these hives are not well suited for transport. However, both hives are popular with beekeepers who want to provide pollination for gardens or intend to infrequently manipulate the hives. Beekeepers must delicately handle the U-shaped combs that the bees hang from simple top bars. In today’s photo, The Luddite, checks the fit of top bars for a Warre hive she is building. The complete Warre hive can be seen in the February 6, 2011 posting.

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