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Foundationless frames for Warre hives?


Hi! I am a relatively new beekeeper in northern Colorado, and a new member to this forum. I have two Warre hives, both purchased from Beethinking.

This past summer, I hived my first colony (a package), and learned a great deal watching my bees through the observation windows and studying the entrance and bottom board. While the colony seemed to take off initially, it did not grow as fast as I had read was typical (I read that it would take about 8 weeks for the bees to fill two boxes with comb; after six weeks, my bees had filled out 6 of the 8 top bars in the top box with comb). The colony never moved down into the bottom box, and by late summer it was clear to me that it was failing. Wasps started to invade the hive, and within a few weeks seemed to have completely taken over. In short, my maiden voyage ended up on the rocks :pensive: !

Meanwhile, mid-summer I received my second hive as a gift from a supportive relative. So, this spring I plan to try it again . . . this time with two colonies. As I prepare for “Take 2,” I am wondering about the possibility/advisability of putting foundationless frames into one of the hives. My approach last summer was pretty “hands off” – consistent with Warre philosophy–but, I wonder if I could have done anything more proactive that might have helped my first colony get stronger initially and enabled it to succeed (i.e., re-queened?). I am thinking that if I were to use foundationless frames, I could get inside the hive more easily and that, while it might disturb the bees a bit more, it would also provide me the opportunity to learn more about what is really going on in there … and, hence, help me to become a better beekeeper.

So, my question is twofold: 1) do you/could you/would you make some foundationless frames that would fit my Warre hives that I could purchase? And, 2) do you have any opinions and/or thoughts on whether this would be a good/bad approach?

Thanks in advance for any insights anyone can provide!


Hello there, and thank you for your great questions.

First off, Bee Thinking provides unique and highly effective top bars for your Warré hives, but we do not provide foundationless frames that fit in Warré hives. While there are some independent producers that make foundationless frames to fit in Warré hives, we have found that with the proper technique, handling natural top bar combs can be safe and healthy for the bees. In fact, the Warré hive was designed to provide a natural top bar comb experience for the bees, replicating the inside of natural tree hives. Frames will negate this feature of the Warré hive.

If you are concerned about damaging the combs during a hive inspection, use the [Ultimate Top Bar Hive Tool][1] to carefully detach any comb that has been stuck to the inner sides of the Warré box before you lift a bar. First, gently lower the “L” side of the tool between the comb until you are at the bottom of the box. Next, carefully turn the tool so that the sharp “L” side is against the inner side and below the comb. With a slow but firm motion, pull up on the hive tool to slowly detach the comb from the side. Reapeat on both sides of the comb. Now you can lift out a comb for inspection without any comb damage (remember to always hold your comb perpendicular to the ground!). This technique will greatly lower the risk of any comb breakage during a hive inspection, and provide a greater sense of ease and control while working with a Warré hive.
[1]: http://www.beethinking.com/products/ultimate-top-bar-hive-tool