The case for Warre and Top Bar beehives

Frequently Asked Questions



Where do I get my bees from?

We baited a hive; we put our name on a swarm list. However the most reliable method of populating your hive is to use a nucleus, a young small colony of bees. This is how we populated our hive. 

You need to reserve your nucleus straight away; ideally you want your bees to arrive at the start of the nectar flow, this being May / June. There is a shortage of bees so you need to place your order now with a breeder, that being late summer / autumn for spring next year availability. 

Select a breeder local to you, preferably of British Bee origin, ask the breeder not to mark your queen in advance.  

The advantage of ordering a nucleus early is you are guaranteed bees at the start of the nectar flow. This is a big advantage for the bees and avoidance of winter problems. The colony will have the time to multiply fully, be stronger in health, and gather excess winter stores and possibly some honey for you even.

If you are fortunate enough to receive a swarm, then losing your nucleus deposit should be simply considered as an insurance policy, the nucleus will be welcomed by another beekeeper next on the breeders list.

Transferring bees from a framed nucleus to Warre beehive

Please view the excellent video by Phil Chandler, www.biobees.com. I mentally rehearsed this procedure many times and I found this really helped me.

I also blocked the entrance to our hive so potentially the queen would not leave via this exit with the rest following!

I found the foundation from the nucleus box after I chopped the wooden frame needed gentle handling; large kitchen scissors proved easier than a bread knife and also did the job of the wire cutters. Have a pen to hand to mark the cut width on the top bar of the comb size required; this helps you cut straight when looking through your hood.

We allowed ourselves to dust the bees with icing sugar, as our only Varroa treatment whilst they were all together, I felt it also preoccupied them.     

The use of a feather really was very helpful to prevent trapping the bees, under top bars or when replacing the lid.

Call or email when ordering-

You will find the frame bars are deeper than the Warre top bars. This means the quilt box will not sit flush on the hive box below. To avoid this let us know you are going to use a nucleus box for populating your beehive and I will machine the rebate so it accommodates the thicker bars for you. No charge.

What’s involved when keeping bees in a Warre beehive?

The Warre beehive, also known as the Peoples beehive is a top bar hive. It is probably one of the easiest hives to manage, certainly in terms of time management; only once to three times a year requiring manipulation. This is a big plus in terms of natural beekeeping desires.  

From my experience two people are required to lift the hive when additional boxes are required, not so much weight, but the need I feel for a smooth balanced lift. Suggestion- Discus how you are going to lift the hive with your helper. We lift ours across and then down to remove, up and across to replace. This ensures the lift is coordinated the hive remains exactly vertical and actions are smooth.

If your wishing to beekeep single handed then I would suggest utilising a Warre beehive lift. A mobile version of this we are building ourselves and will be available before next year for you.

In addition the English translation of Abbe Warre by David Heaf is essential reading.  Type www.warre.biobees.com and open the free e-book (PDF)

Positioning your hive?

  • Facing and catching the early morning sun. This helps the bees forage earlier and therefore gather more stores
  • Dappled shade from the midday sun, prevents the beehive potentially becoming too hot
  • The flight path of the bees needs to be so access by you and other garden users is not going to crossover. Unintentionally they will get caught in your hair, and I don’t exactly have much! Whilst our bees do fly up high quickly, I would say you need a good 10 foot radius around the sides and in-front of your beehive as “beespace” Our pathway alongside the house is directly behind the hives for example and this is OK even for our young daughter.  
  • The entrance to the hive should be easily accessible for the bees, long grass etc, should be cleared away. Our hives sit on paving stones this also means bees that have missed the landing pad fall onto a surface that is clear and warm aiding their recovery.
  • Keep a source of water nearby, a birdbath for example. Put moss or straw in the water for the bees to hold onto, this eliminates drowning.   
  • You need to be able to service you bees when required easily, you don’t want to be trapped in a corner or having to lean forward to reach, or be tripping over the rockery for example. Position your hive so you can walk around the hive easily, this will mean future bee operations will be easier, less stressful / no stings!