The Warre Hive: Old is new again, natural advanced hives without chemicals

The Warre Hive was first developed by Abbe Emile Warre (1867-1951). His method of designing a hive is keeps how bees live in the natural world in mind.

by Paul Holowko

There is a section on the top of the hive to help keep moisture under control and to help insult the hive to help bees keep the required internal temperature. This hive is not designed for high production of honey, but more for helping bees survive through drought, low temperatures and wintering in a colder climate.

These methods can be adapted for California, since California is a harsh environment for bees because of the long summers without rain. I’ve been very successful with these hives, if I don’t listen to traditional beekeepers. For instance, new supers for expansion do not go on top, but under the bottom super.

There is a quilt (layer of burlap) to help vent carbon dioxide down through the hive and out the bottom. The top of the hive has been designed to hold heat and more

Pictured above is a honey bee hive in its natural environment in Greece. Remember, honey bees are not native to the US. The honey comb is exposed to the elements and light. Bees can see light and don’t always have to be in the dark.

Abbe Emile Warre wrote a book how to design and maintain a Warre hive. It has been translated into almost all languages of the world. It’s not the easiest hive to take care. It’s from the point of view of bees, not humans. A free copy of his book translated into English is available.

The Warre hive is a top bar hive which contains frames built off a small bar mounted to the top of the hive. Bees follow a bead of wax purposely placed along the length of the bar. The honey comb does not stay as straight as a traditional hives.

Top bars are coated with a thin bead of wax. Here the bees are guided to make their comb. If there is no guide, they make it anywhere.

The super is made of glass (double walled for insulation). There is a set of top bars between the glass super and the wooden super just above. The flat board is used to shade the bees from the sun or they cook like in the glass bowl.

Anatomy of a Warre Hive:

Honey comb is made under the top super inside the glass super. Bees go in and out through the bottom super. There are drain pressure gauge plugs used for viewing inside the hive without disturbing the bees. The top contains a slanted insulated roof.

Observing Beehives Without Disturbing Bees; the wave of the future…

Ryan Reed of San Jose, California is keeping bees in Palo Alto for educational purposes. He has a setup that enables people without wearing bee suits to observe firsthand the inside workings of a beehive. It’s been very popular.

You can see Ryan opening the top of the hive window. Bees cannot come out of the exit and you can watch what goes on.There is an insulated board with frame where it covers the entire window opening. This is an easy way to view and monitor bees without suiting up and disturbing the bees.

Unfortunately this display is unavailable for the general public to view. These hives are rented by a private company for educational and animal conservation purposes.

Pictured below you can see how the hives are set up. They are facing away from anyone approaching the hives.

Observers can approach from behind and view the inside workings of a real live hive. Ryan has all three hives up on stilts for two reasons, convince, protecting from skunks, raccoons and reduction of ants invading the hive.

You can see Ryan with no costume looking at his hives


Ryan with his hives. The weight scale cord is the green wire under the stands.


Front view of the hives. The center hive has a scale on it to measure the weight of the hive throughout the year.

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