Hive building

With two nucs arriving soon we need hives to house them so I took Carolyn up on her offer of building hives together and headed to Riverglen to fire up the power tools.

There are many different types of hives used by beekeepers around the world from the more traditional skeps with their domed shape to the more modern rectangular Langstroth hives. The hives Carolyn was proposing to make were Warré hives; invented by Émile Warré who wrote Beekeeping for All. The more widely used Langstroth hives are also readily available in Ottawa so there was a choice to be made between the two; each type has benefits and drawbacks and each beekeeper chooses hives that suit their philosophy, requirements and situation.
Warré hives

  • Cheaper than Langstroth hives since it’s easier to make your own.
  • Easier to manage physically due to square box shape.
  • Provides adequate ventilation aiding hive to keep dry in winter and cool in summer.
  • Can be harder to observe the hive as the frames aren’t designed to be lifted until honey harvest time. Carolyn put windows in our hives to help overcome this.
  • Allows the bees to decide bee size since no foundation for comb construction is provided.

Langstroth hives

  • More expensive option (estimated $550 for two hives).
  • Heavier to lift due to rectangular box shape (the volume of each box is greater than a Warré).
  • Can have problems with condensation in winter due to lack of ventilation.
  • Easier to observe the hive as each frame can be lifted out easily for inspection.
  • Foundation for comb construction is set in each frame acting to pre-determine bee size.

In the end price was a big factor in the decision but I’m also attracted to the philosophy of beekeeping that Émile Warré expressed; that of letting bees do what they do with minimal interference from the beekeeper. Having said that there’s plenty more research to be done and a lot more beekeeping experience to be gained. Some beekeepers prefer Langstroth, others love the Warré and some swear by top bar hives; it’s even possible to mix it up and incorporate beekeeping approaches long associated with one hive type into another; such as going foundationless like a Warré in a Langstroth hive. I found a succinct and informative comparison at Mistress Beek’s Blog.

Stay tuned for the next Bee-log entry to see how the Warré hives went over the season.