Hi - I purchased 2 of your Warre hives this spring and am discouraged. One hive has a bad case of mites and DWV and both are being plucked off by Bald Faced Hornets. I’m dealing with these issues through other resources, since you don’t offer any solutions for these problems. I have other problems with the hives and looking for solutions. Neither hive would move down into the bottom box, so they swarmed and I have only one occupied box for each hive. So how do I feed in the winter when you only offer syrup feeders to fit your hives? Also, the bees have made a mess of the comb, so it’s really impossible to move bars from box to box, even though I bought the spacer and used it carefully. One of your reps suggested (after the fact) to tack the top bars in place so the bees build straight comb. Why wasn’t that in the instructions? Although really, spend $400 plus on a hive and have to tack the bars in place only to deal with the tack problems later?
Thanks for your post.
Regarding your first question about mites: All hives have mites, and none are inherently better at dealing with mites than others. To me, the best treatment for mites is bees with good genetics. I DO NOT recommend chemical treatments for mites, as this is usually just prolonging the inevitable failure of a colony with weak genetics.
In my experience, this has been local swarms from feral colonies. Unfortunately, most new beekeepers don’t have easy access to feral swarms, so they are forced to go with package bees. I’ve definitely had less success going this route in all hive designs – Langstroth, horizontal top bar, and Warre. We source treatment free package bees for our local Portland, Oregon customers, however, we have customers worldwide, so we can’t provide good bees to everyone.
Hornets are almost never an issue unless a colony is particularly weak. This, again, usually has little to do with the hive design and more to do with the bees themselves or their location. If the genetics are weak, or the forage is weak, you tend to have bees that succumb to issues like mites and later on, hornets or wasps.
Regarding the feeding question: No hive should be fed in the winter, regardless of type. All feeding, if necessary, should generally happen in the spring or the fall. The bees need liquid feed – whether honey or syrup – early enough in the season to move it to empty combs and store it for winter. If feeding in the winter, it is too late.
Generally, if they start building in the top box down (as they should with a Warre hive per Warre’s instructions), the combs are straight. I rarely have colonies begin building crooked combs in the top box, UNLESS a queen cage is hung from one of the bars upon install of the package. This almost always leads to crooked combs.
I keep many hives, over half of them Warres, and I don’t worry too much about crooked combs, as the management practice for Warres is generally box by box rather than comb by comb. It’s a completely different philosophy than Langstroth beekeeping.
Tacking them in place will only help keep the bars oriented perfectly straight – the bees won’t necessarily build perfectly straight combs in them. Bees are bees, and while they usually follow the guides just fine, sometimes they don’t.
If your combs are straight but are simply attached to the sides of the box, this is perfectly normal with Warre hives. You’ll need to use a hive tool to detach the combs from the sides prior to removal.
I do highly suggest reading Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive as well as http://warre.biobees.com if you’ve not already! These are tremendous resources that describe specifically how to use the Warre hive, answering many of the questions you’ve posted here.
Your issues are common among beekeepers new and old, and unfortunately a common part of beekeeping, regardless of hive design or philosophy.