Monday, April 13, 2015

Building a Warré beehive

My hives are ready and are put in place! I hope to be able to attract some appropriate tenants for permanent occupation soon.

I mentioned my sources for the build previously, but for good measure; Warré buildingplans

The process in itself is very straight forward as I almost literally followed the plans. I only had to adjust the measurements to the size of the wood I used. Some planks were not quite 21cm wide, but close and the thickness is not 2cm, but 2,5cm. That means extra insulation in winter and extra bulk, when the hive is empty. The lifting handles were cut with a slope on top, so water can run off.
I constructed 6 boxed and carved a slit 1x1cm along the top of the short walls. Here's where the topbars will rest. I then put the topbars in place, using a 12mm thick piece of wood as a template. I then drilled a small hole through the bars into the underlying box walls. The holes in the bars were used as a guide to saw slits into the ends. Into the holes in the walls I inserted toothpicks, so each bar fits. This makes easy replacing bars at the right spot later on.

The quilts were even easier to make. A 10cm high squareframe, burlap at the bottom and a fitting board on top. The burlap was an old shoppingbag. At some point last winter a mouse got into it and died there. During the decomposition process it bodily fluids had stained the plastic liner and seams and we deemed the bag unfit for further use.
The day before making the quilt I treated the burlap as per instructions in Warré's "Beekeeping for all", meaning covering the burlap in a flour paste. This paste consists of 1 liter of water and 3,5dl of wheatflower (in my case). Warré himself suggests 5 soupspoons of preferably rye flour. To make this paste you slowly cook the water, slowly adding the flour, while continually stirring.
When I pasted on the goo it looked a mess as it thickens even more as it cools and I took off the excess paste after letting it soak for a while. No idea if I should do that or not. While the burlap is still wet, fasten it to the quiltframe! When it dries it will put itself taught. Then just cut off the excess burlap and you have a box for your insulation.

The insulation itself is sawdust (not the powdery version). That stuff  is also used for insulation on addicts around these parts and we have loads of it. The topboard was once a tabletop from an old diningtable.
The top was a bit trickier. I made a calculation error and had to redo one of them. But still it is quite straight forward and there even is a simpler version, which has only 1 slope. Of course I went for the harder one. Just looks better I think.
Next step was the bottom. Here too I used the old tabletop, sawing 2 squares of 35x35cm; the outer measurements of the hives. I then tried to fashion an opening for the hive entrance with a small slope. That did not go as I had hoped, but I hope the bees will forgive me. Do not forget the landingplatform in front of the entrance.
Now the legs.... Here I did do something I normally would not do. I used pressure impregnated wood. Simply because I still had that as a leftover from a job I did last year. I used 4 3x3cm normal wood legs (inner legs), but covered them with the impregnated wood (outer legs), so that the top of that runs over the edge, while the legs sit under the hive bottom. I cut the top of them outer legs in an angle so rain and meltwater can run off.

I did NOT need to buy;
2 broodchambers of whatever size or material
2 bottoms
2 tops or inner covers
4-6 supers
2 queen excluders
frames, usually 10 per box
waxsheets for each frame

The whole thing cost me one box of nails from the thriftshop..... plus the hours of labour. And if I can build them, really anybody can!!!

It truly is a people's hive; plain, simple and cheap. I hope effective too!

For now I have 2 hives with 2 boxes each. Only used 3 for the pictures. The remaining 2 boxes will serve as a makeshift swarm catcher, so I have 3 locations covered, enhancing my chances of attracting a swarm. I treated the bottom of the bars with wax as suggested/instructed by David Heaf.
See my previous post for links and extensive information on the subject.

Now go ahead! Make some! It really is as easy as it looks.


  1. Looks good, hopefully from the bees' point of view too! I should think one seriously too, as I consume quite a lot of honey....

  2. Nice hives! Hope you get some tenants soon! I have thought about keeping bees as well, but have been hesitant because of the climate.

  3. Thanks for the comments, gents!
    I am sure you could find some local beekeepers who could help you on the way. But be aware. If any of my experiences are anything to go by, you might stumble into a very conservative community, who react quite deterrent, almost aggressive to new or alternative ideas questioning the ways of these days.

  4. Your pictures make me want to build one, too. We have a very active commercial beekeeping community. Our area has thousands if not hundreds of thousands of almond trees and every time we go out on the highway there will be a section where the windshield hits many bees. Sorry bee! That is in the Big Valley (Sacramento). Over by our ranch there is the non-native invasive star thistle that makes superb honey. Our ranch leases a section to the commercial growers for about 100 conventional bee houses over by the big creek. I'm sure this is conventional bee keeping. I wonder what they'd advise if I decide to go forward? They don't spray star thistle like they do almond trees so I guess it's more "natural".

    1. Go right ahead, I'd say!
      The plans and information is all in the links and it is just great being close to the bees, conventional or natural.

    2. I've never been frightened by bee stings. We got our share of stings as kids running barefoot through clover. Now I don't mind if they crawl on me. I just talk to them and ask them to fly away to a source of food. Wasps. I am scared of wasps because they sting over and over and seem really angry all the time. Bees seem content if you stay calm.

      I might do it.