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Warre vs. Kenyan Top Bar Hive


#1

I was hoping that I could stir a discussion on the pros and cons of the Warre vs. the Kenyan style Top Bar Hive. I started with the horizontal Kenyan style TBH this year and have been very pleased with it but am considering trying a Warre hive with the viewing windows for my second hive next year. I enjoy the TBH near my home with easy access and have added new bars every couple of weeks all summer and have enjoyed being able to watch and interact with the bees more as I am learning about them. However, I am interested in the Warre for a location where I would not be able to attend to it so often.

What say you, experienced beekeepers? Can you share some thoughts on these two methods with me?


#2

Hi Small Town Girl,

I’m a newby and was exploring the same question. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’d love to hear from anybody who has worked with both, especially if used at the same time.

Kenyan Top Bar Hive

Pros:

  • little lifting at any one point in time; each maintenance session is physically easy

  • dynamic management – there are more easy options for dynamicly modifying hive structure

  • less invasive and gentler on bees, esp. if side windows are used, for most maintenance tasks; claims is hive health is better for fewer colony problems (I haven’t seen supporting data)

  • no add’l storage needed; extra bars are stored in the hive, just on the other side of the follower bar

  • splitting out a nuc (new colony) appears to be easy

Cons:

  • frequent maintenance is necessary (perhaps 2x/week in peak flow season, always at least 1x/month)

  • less honey (some say this is a good thing for the bee)

  • some bars get recycled very infrequently, meaning some comb can be very old (I admit that I don’t know why this is a bad thing, but some point to that being a con that WH overcomes)

  • management requires strategy

Warre Hive

Pros:

  • least # maintenance visits (as little as 2x/year)

  • if remove top box when full, still fairly gentle on bees

  • more honey each collection time and overall

  • allows bees to extend hive downward, more instinctive, leading to 4 of 5 bees voting favorably for WH :lol:

  • brood bars become honey bars: all comb gets replaced regularly

Cons:

  • each maintenance requires lifting heavier boxes (possibly a problem for those with physical limitations)

  • unused boxes need to be stored somewhere

  • I’m not sure how easy it is to split off a nuc

Cost-wise, an unassembled TBH with legs and a wood roof is roughly the same cost as an unassembled WH with 4 boxes, legs, windows, and a wood roof.

I’m tempted to buy one of each and do the comparison myself. If only I could figure out how to do the comparison with colonies that behave the same…


#3

Small Town Girl,

ellisd has provided a good comparison of the two types. A couple other notes: I think horizontal top bar hives are more fun, and if I only had one hive it would probably be a hTBH. Warre hives are a little more difficult to get into, but I don’t have to go into them very often.

Best,

Matt


#4

Thanks so much ellisd. This is exactly the type of information I was trying to gather and you have done such a great job of listing it all out!!! :D I’m really tempted to split into a top bar nuc box next year and get a few combs going and then place it all into a top bar hive with empty bars between the already started nuc box bars and fill the rest up with empty bars and see what they do unattended for longer periods. I know that’s not the ideal and if the hive was going to be easy access, I would certainly continue with the idea of weekly or biweekly adding of bars I did this year in my first hive.

Using the follower board and just giving them a few extra bars at a time and inserting the empty bars between the drawn comb bars worked so great in my easy access hive this year but I have a location for a second hive that will not be tended on a weekly basis. I sure wouldn’t want to give up my easy access hive…I actually look in the window on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day for a quick look as to what is going on and I’ve learned so much about the rhythm of the hive.

Since my goal would not be to harvest as much honey as possible from my secondary hive, I have a little more room to experiment and let them treat it like a hollow log and see what they do with it without so much intervention from me.

Thanks again, ellisd for sharing what you have learned.