Posts Tagged ‘warre hives’

Image by Björn Appel (honey bees fanning their wings to circulate and cool the air in the hive)

We have had the busiest “bee” year that we have ever had since we got our first hives in 2007. If you’ll recall, we came out of winter this year with these two hives, both of them super strong and healthy.

This is what we have now…

I couldn’t fit them all into one photo so I had to splice two photos together. We are up to 6 hives, well above our goal for this year!

I’ve mentioned before that our main goal is to get all of our hives converted over to Warre’ hives which allow the bees to make their own comb and is a less intrusive/controlling method of beekeeping. We’ve currently got all but one hive moved over to Warre’ hives, we’ll probably move the last standard German hive over next year.

So how did we get so many hives? Well, it’s a long busy story, but I’ll try and condense :O)

This year P volunteered with the local Swarm Hotline. When people find swarms in their garden, they can call and the nearest beekeeper is contacted and goes to access the situation, either catching the swarm or counselling on how best to deal with the bees.

"The Bee-Mobile"

Over the past month our tiny Renault Twingo has been converted into “The Bee-Mobile” loaded with swarm boxes and containers, veils, bee suit, smoker, branch cutter, a swarm catching bag-on-a-stick, even a special bee vacuum-cleaner attachment for those pesky hard-to-get-at swarms! Anything that he might need is in there. So far P has responded to a dozen or more calls, many of the swarms flew away before he could get there, some were way too high to catch, and one unfortunate swarm apparently had been poisoned and died. Out of all of those phone calls, P managed to bring home 3 healthy swarms…but then the swarming season isn’t quite over yet so there is a chance, if we’re lucky, we’ll get one or two more.

Strange Incident of a Queen in the Morning

The strangest occurrence, which led to one of our new hives, happened about a month ago. P went out to check on the bees early one morning and sitting there all by herself on the side of one of the hives was a virgin queen bee. It was strange because it was still too cool outside and none of the bees were flying yet so what was this queen doing out on the hive-box all alone? Possibly she had been out on a mating flight the previous day and for some reason didn’t re-enter the hive, or possibly she was one of a group of just hatched queens and she left the hive, or was kicked out? Or maybe she wasn’t even one of our bees at all! Who can say… it remains a mystery but P caught her and commenced to making a hive for her.

He put her into this queen cage and then went out to our strongest hive and collected enough bees to give her a decent start.

He put everyone into this Warre’ hive then put them into the cellar where they stayed for 3 days. This gives them time to become acquainted with the new queen and hopefully accept her, they spend a day or 2 eating a plug of honey or candy away from the cage opening which then frees the queen, at which point they are ready to go outside and begin building their new hive. So far this hive is doing really well, it went smoothly with none of the numerous complications that we had last time we tried this.

So that unusual incident gave us our first Warre’ hive of the year!


(Sorry about the recycled photo, forgot the camera this year, this image is from our 2008 harvest.)

Yes, we harvested this year, last time we harvested was in 2008. We don’t harvest every year as a rule, we don’t sell honey and there is only so much honey that two people can eat in a year! We do give it away quite often and still one harvest typically lasts us for 2-3 years. We got a record harvest this year with a total of 100lbs of honey! That was from just 2 hives.

During the honey harvest P shook all of the bees from one of our standard German hives into one of the Warre’ hives which leaves us with just the one standard German hive.

Kenya Top Bar Hives

In addition to all the other bee activities, we also built 2 Kenya Top Bar Hives, which are my official first hives. I will write about these in a separate post.

So to sum up…

1st new hive this year came from our Mysterious Queen Incident

2nd new hive was a captured swarm we learned about from our neighbour who is also a beekeeper.

3rd new Warre’ hive was a transfer of one of our established hives during the honey harvest.

4th and 5th new Warre’ hives came from swarms located through the Hotline.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. On the same day that P caught the first swarm, one of our original German standard hives threw a very large swarm which of course flew to the very top of the tallest tree on our property and were way too high to catch, so we lost 1 swarm of our own, but gained 3.

Whew! Did I mention it has been a VERY BUSY SUMMER?

I haven’t even mentioned all the work going on in the garden. I think I’ll save that for another post!


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I’m brushing away the dust on this sorely neglected blog to bring you a brief update on the bees.

If you’ve been following the blog you know that last year was not a good year for our bees. The weather was cold and rainy and most of the hives were weak, even without us harvesting any honey, they had a hard time. A few weeks ago the weather started to warm up enough that the bees could leave the hive during the warmest part of the day. Going into the winter we had 4 hives, all still using the traditional German style hives (still no established Warre’ hives unfortunately).

It became obvious during those first few warm days that at least one of our hives was dead, it was silent as a tomb, while the others were all active. Peer opened the hive and sure enough, there was nothing but a big mount of dead bees laying at the bottom. The other hives quickly discovered that this hive was not being defended and they began to raid it taking anything and everything that would be of use to them. Robbing other hives is not something to be encouraged, but we let them do it mainly because they still have a while to go before they will have a reliable food source, nothing is blooming yet. We’re hoping that with what they gathered from the dead hive, they’ll make it through the rest of the winter.

This year we’ll try again to establish some Warre hives and strengthen the ones we have.  More soon!

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Hi everyone, I know it’s been a long time, I apologize. There just hasn’t been much to share that anyone would find of interest and life in general is keeping me pretty busy in other directions. But we’ve had a few questions about our Warre’ hive experiment and how it is going, so here’s a brief update.

We started in June of 2008 by building 5 Warre’ hives. The plan was to gradually move the bees from the standard German boxes that we were using, into the Warre’ hives as the bees swarmed. Well, it sounded like a good plan…

That year we had 2 swarms, the first one we caught and moved into one of the hives, unfortunately it did not thrive and died out over the winter of 2009. The other swarm we were unable to catch.

Next, we followed the advice of a local beekeeper and tried to create an artificial swarm. He gave us a queen that he was  going to replace in one of his own hives (he does alot of experimental breeding and so forth). Well that was a complete and total disaster from start to finish. Despite Peer’s best efforts to keep it together, that hive never took and it gradually dwindled down to nothing. The queen kept crawling away (she had a clipped wing and couldn’t fly). The hive was in complete and utter chaos and many of the bees few away…total, TOTAL disaster. Do NOT try this at home kiddies.

So we began the spring of 2009 with 1 dead Warre’ hive and 4 hives in standard German boxes. Two of those hives were really weak and the other two, while not quite as weak, we felt were not strong enough to harvest honey from and so we didn’t. We left them completely alone for the most part to see if they could build themselves back up over the summer.

With the exception of one hive, they continued to be weak. The summer was not a great one for bees, it was cold, dark and rainy much of the time so this didn’t help matters. There were no swarms at all over the summer so we never got the chance to start another Warre’ hive.

Since they were doing so poorly, we also checked them early for mites and they seemed to have quite a few, even though Peer had, as per standard mite treatment recommendations, treated them the previous autumn. So he treated them again. We think that we’ve lost yet another hive this autumn due to the mites and then the wasps moved in, the hive was not strong enough to fend them off. So we are down to 3 hives. I think we may lose another one or two over the winter since they are already weak going into it…

It might be that we have to buy new bees and start over again, but Peer wants to give these guys a chance first. We’re in no rush, we don’t really care about the honey, for us it’s not about the honey, we just enjoy having the bees here. So we’ll be patient and give them a chance.

And so, needless to say, it was a very bad, bad, bad, bad year!

I hope that next summer I’ll have better news!

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I love to watch our bees drink, it’s something you don’t see everyday. Long periods of time can go by without noticing any bees at all near the water barrel and then one day you wake up to find 30-40 bees all drinking at once, and they will usually spend the next several days drinking. Peer told me that this is a good indication that they are breeding. They are hauling water back to the hive. He says that they use the water to drink and also to regulate the temperature in the hive. Here is the place that our bees like to drink.


Inside the barrel we have a piece of styrofoam which is like a raft for the bees. All those black dots on the styrofoam are bees. One thing I’ve discovered is that bees do not do very well around water, they fall in and drown really easily. They do much better with this big raft. The styrofoam is not totally flat and smooth, I picked out shallow holes in the surface so that water can well up and make little shallow ponds on the surface of the raft, then they can drink in relative safety. Here are some close-ups of the raft.


That same raft has been in there for more than a year, they hold up well. You can see a bit of algae has developed but the bees don’t mind, there are many other places they could get water from, but they seem to prefer this spot.




We’ve got lots of stuff blooming in our area right now. The cherry trees started blooming over the weekend and that is when the beekeepers around here put the honey boxes on the hives. That’s what peer did yesterday. He also set up 2 of our Warre hives in the hope that when the bees begin to swarm that they will just move into one of the empty hives. We have a hard time catching the swarms otherwise, because the hives are surrounded by several really tall trees and of course when they swarm they go to the very top where we can’t reach them.


I forgot to tell you that we did end up losing another hive so we are down to three right now. The one that we thought was just weak was actually dead. The bees we saw going in and out were bees from the other hives raiding it.

and so that’s about it for now, I’ll leave you with a few photos…


These are my swamp marigolds, they live in the water-trough next to the barrel where the bees drink.


And this is my favorite picture from yesterday. These are my basil seedlings coming up.

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