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Just starting... Warre outdated?

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New Bee

Joined: 20 Oct 2018
Posts: 2
Location: Kansas City, MO

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:50 pm    Post subject: Just starting... Warre outdated? Reply with quote

I live in Kansas City, and I hope to start some hives in 2019. While reading online, the Warre hives sounded wonderful. I liked the idea of setting them up and leaving them alone.

When I asked about building a box on the Warre subforum of beesource, a storm broke out. The storm made me wonder if there was a bias in the forum.
Here are the general theories that were expressed:
* Warres were great once upon a time, but modern problems like Varroa make them obsolete.
* As a begginner, you should start with lang because you will get more help from neighboring bee keepers.
* Only an expert should use a Warre because it is so difficult to ensure hive survival. You want to have lots of lang hives in order to repopulate your Warre.
* A Lang hive can do everything a Warre hive can do. You just use the Warre management method with a Lang.
* Modern Warre hives have moveable frames like langs. So the only difference now is the box size.

I came to this forum to see if there was an alternative viewpoint.
Are the top bar hives better beginner hives for natural bee keeping?
Thank you!
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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi and welcome

I have reservations about novice beekeepers using Warre Hives just with top bars rather than frames because of the level of competence needed to manipulate combs when necessary and if you use frames, you might as well use Langstroths. You can certainly manage a Langstroth hive much more naturally than conventional beekeepers by using starter strips instead of wax foundation or heaven forbid, plastic foundation or comb and it is easier to get started by purchasing a nucleus colony that will transfer straight into it rather than having to try to chop and crop frames. Package bees are just not ethical in my opinion and we should not be promoting or encouraging their use which has sadly happened as a result of people waning an easy installation into a top bar hive. Personally I prefer swarms, but I understand that not everyone has the contacts or knowledge to pick one up.
You can also nadir your Langstroth rather than supering and as you say, assistance is much more readily available for a Langstroth. My personal preference is to steer new natural beekeepers towards an Horizontal top bar hive, because the bees still get to build their natural nest, they are easy to build and relatively easy to inspect and you can incorporate an observation window along pretty much the whole length and the whole colony is not exposed the moment you take the lid off, so most of the colony remain undisturbed whilst you do an inspection. You do still have the problem of installing a nucleus which requires a chop and crop process which whilst it seems daunting is actually not overly difficult, but many people are put off by the idea of it and buy a package of bees Sad

It is hard for me to comment about the varroa issue because I just don't have a problem with them anymore regardless of hive type and that is probably down to my low level management style and allowing my bees to swarm unrestricted, but that of course impacts honey harvest and may cause nuisance issues with neighbours etc I personally believe that it is important to have a knowledge, understanding and competence level of beekeeping before you adopt a low management approach so that you can spot an issue from regular observation of the entrance if you are not going to be opening the hive up for inspections very often.

It may also be that you have local regulations which stipulate that the hive has to have removable combs or "frames".

I think the reality of using and managing Warre hives is not as simple as the reading suggests and if you do not have the experience or local support, then I think it can be problematical. Of course it is very simple to build from off cut timber, so can be cheap to make, whereas a Langstroth with frames will set you back a couple of hundred dollars I imagine.

It really depends on why you are getting into beekeeping as to which hive would be best for you. A Langstroth will give you honey production if you manage the bees to prevent swarming etc. A Warre is harder to manage for maximum harvest (unless you have frames which kind of defeats the object of it's simplicity for me) or you are a competent beekeeper who knows what they are doing. An horizontal top bar hive is more suitable for someone who wants to keep bees more sustainably for a hobby and the fascination and would enjoy a few jars of honey in the process but is not looking to "farm" the bees and harvest significant quantities of honey.

That is my take on it. I started on conventional framed hives (British Nationals) and I feel that I gained a lot of experience at handling bees and learning my craft from that which now stands me in good stead for keeping bees more naturally in other types of hives. I was never comfortable with all the conventional management that goes with that style of beekeeping and I slowly found my own way to where I am now. I do not regret starting with framed hives and I still have them but allowing the bees to build their own nest pretty much to their own plan is a bit of a revelation that still gives me a thrill to see, even if it can pose a few difficulties for the beekeeper.
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New Bee

Joined: 20 Oct 2018
Posts: 2
Location: Kansas City, MO

PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the thoughtful reply.

While looking at various top bar hives, I came across a horizontal langstroth hive. If a Horizantal langstroth had a window, this seems like a great compromise. Do you have any thoughts on this idea? Could production be comparable to a traditional langstroth?
Thank you!
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Scout Bee

Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 270
Location: Essex. UK.

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I was in the US I would do exactly what Michael Bush does. Run foundationless frames in a Lang but using all mediums so you have a OSB system just like managing a Warre. You can’t remove and inspect the fixed combs from a Warre without causing massive disruption. It’s not designed for that. If you want to make regular inspections, a Warre is not for you. Have a look at Michaels website, his approach to bees and his methods are pretty much perfect I think. Good luck with whatever you choose.
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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would agree with mannanin for that being the best approach in your situation.

The problem with horizontal hives and frames is that they have to be made pretty accurately to prevent significant brace comb or propolising of frames to the body and the length lends itself to warping of the wood etc meaning that even if accurately made, it will not maintain bee space throughout it's length once in use and exposed to the moist hive environment. If you do not inspect regularly it will become very hard to work. The lack of a frame in normal horizontal hives allows the bees to build queen cells down the edge of the comb which is their preferred location and they can clearly be seen developing through an observation window as swarming season approaches.... one of the main benefits of an observation window in my opinion. With foundationless frames they may well still build them down the edge of the comb but inside the frame and you will not be able to see them. To me adding frames just ruins the simplicity of the hive and means that you lose the benefit of that hive type. Same with Warre and you might as well stick with the established equipment and just manage it as naturally as possible.

Michael Bush is very well respected and if that is the route he has taken I think, that is probably the best approach in your situation.
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Scout Bee

Joined: 04 Jan 2010
Posts: 435
Location: USA, Arizona

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do your research. Pick a hive you want to try. And go with it.
The Warre was the first interesting hive I ran across. After reading more from PHil Chandler and Michael Bush(your part of the country) I decided to start with the Kenyan Top Bar Hive as shown by Phil Chandler. Worked great, lots to learn, made tons of mistakes. It's all good.

IN addition to this site check out Michael Bush presentations on YouTube and www.bushfarms .com

Biobees and BushFarms give you a tremendous advantage.

Bottom line, pick one. Go with it. Learn.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
Enjoy the day.
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New Bee

Joined: 07 Jul 2018
Posts: 6
Location: United States/Maine/York/Arundel

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps you should look into a Layens hive. Not very well known, but with many advantages. It's a horizontal with very low maintenance requirements. Probably doesn't compare to a Lang if you're into it for max production and portability. But other than that, I think it's a winner.
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Scout Bee

Joined: 27 Aug 2010
Posts: 289
Location: USA, Colorado, Denver

PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I started out with a Warré hive and have had no problems whatsoever.
Long story short, we had bees move into the wall of our house, and while searching for someone to remove them, one of the people we called asked if we wanted to keep the bees. I decided to keep the bees, and he recommended the Warré hive. My older brother and I did the cutout and installed them into a Warré hive. My wife and I have been running with Warré hives since then (2010). I don’t know why people say beginners shouldn’t use Warré hives. My bother also started with Warré hives. He adopted a Langstroth hive from another beek and prefers his Warré hives. Read up and choose what you think will work best for you.
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Guard Bee

Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 84
Location: Houston Tx, USA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the above posts say, read,read,read, then make a decision which hive to use for your first experiment. You’ve got this fall and winter to learn. I choose to go with a Ware 6 years ago, haven’t tried any other. Tipping point for me was that for the money to get one Lang up and running, I could build 2 1/2 Ware’s with the lumber available locally. Mistakes made in the past 6 years? Absolutely! Knowledge gained from mistakes and reading? Quite a lot. So choose a hive by late winter and get ready by early spring. You’ll be hooked on a new adventure after your first hive is up and going successfully..
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Adam B
House Bee

Joined: 24 Mar 2019
Posts: 16
Location: St Albans UK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My apologies for resurrecting an older post, but I do have a question that seems relevant.

Can you go into more detail about this:
I have reservations about novice beekeepers using Warre Hives just with top bars rather than frames because of the level of competence needed to manipulate combs...

What I'm hearing here is that when moving and manipulating the boxes from a frameless Warre hive, there is a greater chance of breaking the comb; whereas working a kTBH, this is less likely, as the have box itself is not moved.

Is this what you are trying to convey? Or did I get this wrong?

I am assuming that the worry is not novices and frameless bars as this is true for both kTBH and the Warre.

Just to put my questions into context: I'm trying to decide what hives to run as my first hives and I'm torn between a kTBH and some form of "OSB" or "All Mediums".

Personally, it's a bit of an exaggeration when I say I'm fit to lift a dram, and if I must I can lift a pint; but I do worry a tiny bit somewhere about working solo and lifting heavy supers but I would also like to give myself the best chance at my first learning experience.
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New Bee

Joined: 10 May 2018
Posts: 3
Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Warrés should be handled as he intended them to be handled, without bar manipulation. And yes, I realize you'll have no choice but to do so if you get a visit from an inspector which is why I probably wouldn't use them in a place where inspections are mandatory.

Is it possible to handle them? Of course. Lift a box and get somebody to hold it up in the air, take a knife and cut the sides of the comb loose from the walls. After you've done that you can take your comb out and put it back again later. This is why it's easier to use a horizontal top bar hive. You can just move the empty bars at the end, or the follow board, out of the way and then you can easily take the bars out or, if they're stuck to the walls, use the same knife to cut them loose without any of the heavy lifting or trying to cut in a relatively small space.

(yeah, you could also put the warrés on their side and cut the comb loose that way but the visual for that isn't nearly as interesting Wink If you do that make sure the comb is vertical, not horizontal. Still, not as easy as a KTBH)
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House Bee

Joined: 05 May 2019
Posts: 12
Location: Wisconsin, USA

PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the theme that colobeekeep started... a very smart man told me once "Don't believe any of what you hear and only half of what you see". This was well before the internet came along. I think the proportions are quite different now. Don't hesitate to use a hive type that intrigues you. What fun is this hobby if you just following well worn path.

Not sure who said that moving Warre bars is difficult. Maybe if they are fixed. Mine Warre hives are "fixed" with a nail with the head cut off and a notch cut in the bar ends just to keep them aligned. Look for the up-cutting hive tool for separating the comb from the side walls before removing each bar. I see videos of people using knives to do this task on top bars and Warre. They cut from top to bottom pulling the comb away from the bars. Don't cut down, cut up. Cutting down just pulls the comb away from the bars. Cutting up from the bottom of each comb give much better results.
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