After using Langstroth, horizontal top bar and Warre hives, we love Warre hives for their simplicity, ease of management and success. We’ve had more success with Warre hives than any other hive design, and we don’t think this is by chance.
When you first get your bees you should start them in 2 Warre boxes, leaving any extras for holding a jar or bucket feeder. If you’re installing a package or a swarm you can set up the first two boxes – the bottom with bars and the top without. Place the queen cage on the bars (if using a package) and install the marshmallow in place of the cork. Gently pour the bees on top of the queen cage, leaning the box full of stragglers against the entrance of the hive. Replace the bars in the top box, put the burlap on top, and then the quilt box and roof above that.
Over the next couple months monitor their growth by tilting the bottom box forward. If you see the bottom box filling with comb you can add another box or two accordingly. As fall arrives, check the bottom boxes for comb – if they are empty you can remove them until the colony is down to 2-3 boxes. We don’t recommend harvesting any honey in the first season, instead you should leave all of it for the bees and hope for a surplus next season!
While most commercial beekeepers use Langstroth hives or other common hive designs, there are a number of beekeepers running large-scale Warre hive operations. One example is Gilles Denis - a commercial beekeeper in France managing several hundred modified Warre hives. Here in Portland, we manage between 10 and 12 Warre hives at any given time and have great success with them in our wet, sunless environment!