Picking up our new Warré bee hive

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All the bits that make up a Warré hive, ready to be painted and assembled
All the bits that make up a Warré hive, ready to be painted and assembled

(This is the 3rd in a series of posts about Bringing honey bees to Lewisham House.)

Instead of getting conventional bee hives, we went down the route of Warré bee hives and so-called ‘natural beekeeping’. So what’s all this about?

Warré bee hives, also known as the “people’s hive”, are a little different from conventional hives:

  • they’re smaller in cross-section, to make them closer to the natural dimensions of the hollow trees that bees normally live in
  • the bees are allowed to grow natural honeycomb, rather than using
  • there’s a quilt box at the top of the hive, to keep warmth in over winter
  • empty boxes are added underneath, rather than on top, to minimise disturbance to the bees
  • (plus various other changes and tweaks)

This sits within the broader philosophy of ‘natural beekeeping’, which focuses on:

  • minimising the number of disturbances of the bees (Warré hives may be opened as few as 2-3 times per year)
  • creating the most natural environment for the bee
  • supporting the bee’s natural biodiversity and defences
  • working with bees in a way that is ethical and sustainable

(This is my quick, layman’s summary. Much more is written on Tim Malfroy’s Natural Beekeeping Australia site.)

When it came to our new hive, it was made by Tim and delivered to a pick-up point in Sydney. When I arrived, there were over a dozen hives going to destinations throughout Sydney, so it seems that natural beekeeping is making its mark. Very exciting!

As shown in the picture above, there’s a lot of elements of a hive, including:

  • base for the hive, incorporating a small beetle trap
  • four boxes, two of which are used initially
  • bee excluder (basically a square of flyscreen)
  • smaller box containing the ‘quilt’ (a fabric pillow containing wood shavings, etc)
  • wooden cover board
  • roof that goes over it all
  • Emlock strap to hold the hive down

The boxes and roof were then painted with a white “natural paint”, sourced from The Natural Paint Company (tell them you’re a beekeeper and they’ll know what you need).

We’re getting close now! The next post will talk about preparing the hive for bees.

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