A beekeeper recently wrote me asking if I could enumerate the differences between a Bee Tree Hive and a Warré Hive. I am happy to do so to the best of my ability.
Let me say first that my own personal journey as a beekeeper has led me to try to learn from the bees themselves what it is that the bees need from me, including a hive cavity that best supports how they're designed to live as they perform their work in the world. Because of this, I have been focused on developing the Bee Tree Hive and have not owned a Warré Hive. So, the comparison that I am making below is one that any potential beekeeper could make by doing the same research online.
Let's start from the ground up. These are the design features that a Bee Tree Hive has that I don't see in a typical Warré Hive:
1. Cedar legs that, in combination with the Eco-Floor, get the bottom of the brood nest 16" off the ground.
That is twice the distance of a concrete block with a simple bottom board (the Warré has a simple bottom board). Plus, the longer cedar legs act as an insulator from the cold ground. (If you use a concrete block, keep in mind that concrete actually conducts cold.)
2. An Eco-Floor under the brood nest.
A honey bee colony is not designed to live as a solitary organism in a sterile environment. In the wild, they live in symbiotic relationship, inside the hive, with thousands of other organisms - from yeasts, molds, and fungi, to many other insects... including several varieties of mites!
The Eco-Floor is open on the top and screened on the bottom. This allows you to fill it with detritus from the ground in the region where the hive will be located. This adds indigenous organisms to the hive environment, which brings health to the colony in ways that we have yet to discover or even imagine.
Because the Eco-Floor is screened on the bottom, it allows a slow movement of air, up through the detritus, that provides year-round ventilation. Because the air moves slowly through the detritus, where countless biological processes are occurring, the detritus also provides insulation. There are no drafts of cold air blowing in a bottom entrance or up through a screened bottom board. The temperature, humidity, and pH levels inside the hive stay much more consistent.
The detritus is also hygroscopic; it absorbs, and then slowly releases, any excess moisture that may drip down from inside the hive. This also helps to keep both the temperature and the relative humidity more consistent inside the hive. The bees will therefore consume fewer resources to regulate their micro-climate inside the hive.
There is a 3” removable cover on the back so that the detritus can easily be added to while the Eco-Floor is part of an occupied hive.
And, in conjunction with the individual entrances in each hive body, the Eco-Floor makes a bottom board completely unnecessary.
3. Double-thick walls on all four sides of each Hive Body.
Bee Tree Hives are built on an 8-frame hive footprint. But, with the double thick walls, a Bee Tree Hive Body holds 7 frames. This, in conjunction with the fact that the hive bodies are built to hold deep frames, contributes to a narrower, more vertical cavity for the bees to live in. If you view images of honey bees in their winter cluster, almost without exception the cluster is only 7 frames wide.
4. Rougher surfaces on the inside of the Hive Bodies.
One side of each piece of the cedar used for Bee Tree Hives is rough, and the rough side is turned to the inside. This helps to stimulate the bees to coat the entire inside of the cavity with propolis. As you know, propolis is a natural anti-microbial; it kills many types of microbes including bacteria and viruses, and contributes greatly to colony health.
5. Each hive body has its own entrance toward the bottom of the box. There are many advantages to this:
- This, along with the Bee Tree Hives Eco-Floor, makes a bottom board completely unnecessary.
- Without a bottom board, and its corresponding bottom entrance, there is no concern about skunks, opossums, raccoons, mice, weeds growing up and blocking the entrance, or snow piling up and blocking the entrance. (Although a mouse can get its head in a 1" hole, it cannot make the hard right turn into the 3/8" of bee space between the inside of the hive body and the end bar of the immediate frame.)
- These entrances are much more easily defended from robbers.
- These entrances also give the bees direct access to the comb where they are currently storing nectar and honey.
- Two of these boxes with their entrances, create the same hive opening space as a half-opened bottom entrance. But, no need for entrance reducers!
You will be amazed at how the bees manage their traffic going in and out of these entrances. So many bees can travel through these at once, going in both directions. They easily land on the face of the hive, and then enter from all around the entire circumference of the entrance hole.
6. Bee Tree Hives accept standard deep frames. There are numerous reasons for this:
- Many beekeepers live in states where they are required, by law, to keep bees on removable frames. With Bee Tree Hives, they can practice bee-centric beekeeping while still meeting this requirement.
- Standard deep frames are the medium of exchange in the beekeeping world. If a beekeeper purchases a nucleus colony, they will most likely receive that colony on deep frames.
- By accepting standard deep frames, a Bee Tree Hive allows a beekeeper to transition to bee-centric beekeeping by moving a colony of bees from a standard Langstroth hive directly into a Bee Tree Hive.
7. The ventilated, insulated Hive Cover gives the bees complete control over the micro-climate of the hive.
Just above the brood nest are six screened vent holes. The bees propolise these screens in order to control both the amount and route of ventilation moving up through the hive. This gives them the ability to regulate factors like the temperature of the brood, and the relative humidity inside the hive as they evaporate nectar to transform it into honey. The bees are always striving to accomplish these things with the least amount of energy expended and the least amount of stores consumed. They can also remove the propolis if the weather turns hot or their population booms, which I've seen them do.
8. The ventilated, insulated Hive Cover, in conjunction with the Eco-Floor and double thick hive bodies, provides a static, well-insulated, year-round environment that is much more like what they would experience in a hollow tree. And yet, they're still in complete control of their micro-climate.
My understanding of a Quilt Box, as in a typical Warré Hive, is that although it absorbs moisture, it also traps moisture in the top of the hive. Plus, there is no way, with a Quilt Box, for the bees to control either the amount, or the route, of their ventilation.
9. The Hive Cover also allows the beekeeper to feed honeycomb back to the bees inside the hive.
The back of the Hive Cover has an access door that you can open by simply removing two wing-nuts. There is a tray you can slide out on which to lay pieces of broken honeycomb to feed back to the bees inside the hive. This access door can be opened without exposing the brood nest, disturbing the bees, or even breaking any of their propolis seals. A full deep frame of honeycomb will also fit into the feeding chamber.
There may be other differences that I have not noticed, and my apologies if I have misunderstood, or misrepresented, the Warré Hive. I know that it has been around for a long time (Emile Warré was born in 1867.)