Warre hive modification

Following on from the July visit to Gareth’s apiary, has anyone modified their hives?

There are 3 stages:

  • add some legs
  • move the entrance up above the lower box
  • add some extra insulation

The legs are just over 50 cm long; compound cut at 15 degrees. The trestle base is some pieces of decking glued and dowelled together. The bottom of each leg is 10 cm out from the base in both directions. The entrance has been raised from 20 cm up to 54 cm.

The entrance is now a chamfered slot on the bottom of an additional box. This box is about half the height of a standard warre box. It has no top bars but adds more depth to the upper box. As the bees were already resident, this box is not attached to the one above. But it does have handles so that they can be lifted together.

Insulation – still looking at permeable roofing felt but thinking a wooden solution is the right way to go.

This arrangement has been in place for a few weeks and seems to be working. Although the bees all ‘know’ where the entrance is some still land on the landing board and crawl up.

One installation problem – in lifting the upper box to add the mezzanine some of the top bars in the lower box came away too. Lots of propolis! These were removed but this must have also loosened some comb. On checking next day the piece was seen lying in the bottom of the lower box covered in bees- oh dear!! It was left there for a week or so by which time the bees had removed all the honey and moved it back upstairs. New clean white comb has been built in the top box.


Happy to help with the woodwork; probably best if you lift your own boxes …

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4 Responses to Warre hive modification

  1. Paul says:

    Smart carpentry, as ever, Brian 8)

    I don’t intend moving my entrance up until I see how Gareth (and you) fare with that modification. However, I have thought about raising my hives a bit more (they are currently about 3 to 6 inches above ground level), if only to help avoid slugs and other pests, and because Gareth said they are subject to damp if too low. Obviously there is a tradeoff here as the higher they are, the more vulnerable they become to toppling in high winds, and maybe wind is more likely to strip heat.

    My hives are sheltered by a fence and are pretty thick walled, so I wasn’t planning to add any extra insulation. I did remove excess boxes / boxes with empty comb to reduce the volume needing heating for winter, so my colonies now just have one empty box below the comb they are using, and the entrance below that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynne says:

    Brian – I’m curious about how the ‘mezzanine’ depth was selected and how it will work in practice – could you say more about your thoughts on this?

    I was thinking a middle-height entrance could be added on an isolated level which would be as thin as possible. However, the idea of a greater depth of comb is interesting and I will be interested to see how that works out – I’m sure the bees will adapt to different depths in different boxes but as the nadir/’move up’ plan of Warre management means in theory the mezzanine and the box above it should be ‘rotated’ off as the colony grows and migrates down – so your entrance will move up and eventually off? Or will you seal it as you add a third box and it moves up and then introduce another ‘mezzanine’ box between boxes two and three? Or will you preserve the top box/mezzanine entrance combo permanently in that position and simply add/remove boxes underneath? In which case of course the comb in that box will not be renewed.

    I’m not saying it’s not a good idea – clearly it seems no issue for bees in trees – just pondering on the practical box management plan.



  3. brianandfaith says:

    By chance our first hive had to have a box and a half to fit round the existing comb we fitted to it. It worked well in that the bees filled it completely with comb and I can still lift it.
    The hive is 2.5 boxes which is around 50 litres, plenty for a colony?
    The idea behind the layout is the ‘new’ idea of leaving the top for the bees and only harvesting from the lower box if/when there is some spare. This means no nadiring boxes etc. Our first hive has 4.5 boxes; the bees make no use of the bottom 2 boxes. They don’t seem to need the extra space as yet although they have produced 2 swarms this year.
    As you say it works in trees – so I better extend the legs a bit more?


  4. Paul says:

    I’ve just been going over some old hive records and noticed something. At one time I had a hive with a higher entrance position. This was an inadvertent consequence of having a Top Bar Nucleus Hive atop a Warre – I was trying to “grow down” the TBH colony into the Warre – it lasted a year but never moved down 8)

    As a result of this unusual geometry, there was a second entrance, for the TB nucleus hive – in effect in the top box, right next to comb. The bees much preferred to use this.

    Here’s the really interesting thing: my notes make a point that the bees in this hive fly “profusely, earlier than the other hives” in the morning. This was probably because the sunlight came in right next to the comb, rather than through a hole several inches below the comb. In general, I’ve noticed that bees which start early seem to gather more nectar during the day and their colonies fare slightly better.


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