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Warré Beekeeping
 

Csuja László's hexagonal hive in Hungary

The Warré hive's square shape is not the most thermally efficient. A round shape best simulates a hollow tree and an octagon, or even a hexagon, better approximates to roundness than a square. Round, octagonal and hexagonal hives have been used for longer or shorter periods in beekeeping history.

John Gedde described a storified/tiered wooden hive with an octagonal shape in his book first published in 1675 (see left picture below; the image provider failed to scan all of it).1 His book went into several editions and the hive was promoted by others, e.g. John Rusden in his book of 1679 (see right picture below).2

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Csuja László has long contemplated making a Gedde hive and finally started his project in May 2008. His goal was to make a simple and inexpensive beehive, i.e. precisely Warré's goal when designing The People's Hive. A further consideration was to better protect the colonies in the climate of Hungary which can have temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius in winter. The plan is to establish 300-500 of these hives in 2009.

Before describing construction and management details here are some photos, all taken from the album 'Geddebeehive' (csuja_laszlo) at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Organicbeekeepers/ :

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A single 'ring' on its floor with two top-bars. Other floors beyond.

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Placing top-bars with foundation starter-strips in ring slots.

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Populating a hexagonal hive.

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Newly populated hexagonal hives.

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Foundation protruding through top-bar slots; new comb below.

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New comb in a hexagonal hive ring.

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New comb under construction.

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Preparing to harvest.

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Ring full of comb.

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Removing honeycomb.

 

Construction

Plans for the layout of each hive body element or ring can be downloaded as a PDF. Each ring comprises three layers of timber (spruce or larch) with the corner joints overlapping alternately for strength. The wall thickness is 30 mm (in the plans for 2009) but they were 50 mm in the 2008 prototypes illustrated above. The plans show 10 top-bars at 30 mm centres, but the above illustrations show 9 bars, possibly at the same spacing to accommodate the thicker walls. From 2009 there will be 10 top-bars.  The ring height is 120 mm. A queen excluder is not necessary. The bees used are Apis mellifera carnica. The overall ring size is determined by the length of each side being 250 mm. The photos show that the rings are regular hexagons whereas in the plans, two opposite sides are longer. These longer sides will be implemented in 2009 so that the beekeeper will never make a mistake with the orientation of the top-bars.

In 2009 the hiveswill be covered with 30 mm plastic sheets with a sheet of aluminium as a solar reflector.

The hive is expanded by both supering, or nadiring (adding new rings at the bottom). If the hive is storing only 0.5-2 kg/day, the new ring is added underneath. If it is storing 2-10 kg per day then new rings are added both underneath and on top.

To populate hives the plan is that between 20 April and 10 May 2009 hundreds of 2-ring hexagonal hives will be set up baited with Nazanov and pseudo-queen pheromone swarm lures. From these, strong colonies of 6-8 rings (720-960 mm high) will be built up. They will be migrated in the second half of May to the acacia honey harvest with expected yields of 30-50 kg per colony. One ring holds 10-12 kg honey. After the harvest the colonies will be fed sugar syrup. A further harvest from sunflowers will take place in July (20-40 kg). The bees are left to stock up with pollen in August and fed sugar syrup. They are left with 20 kg of honey for winter. The colonies are treated for Varroa in September and October.  

 

References

1. Gedde, John. A new discovery of an excellent method of beehouses, and colonies, which frees the owners from the great charge and trouble that attends the swarming of bees, and delivers the bees from the evil reward of ruine, for the benefit they brought their masters" ( London, Printed for the author, 1677. 3d edition, enlarged, with several objections answered.) A transcript of the part of this concerned with the Gedde hive is downloadable as a PDF. A scan of his book is downloadable at http://www.users.callnetuk.com/~heaf/john_gedde.pdf .

2. Rusden, Moses. A further discovery of bees. Treating of the nature, government, generation & preservation of the bee. With the experiments and improvements arising from the keeping them in transparent boxes, instead of straw-hives. Also proper directions (to all such as keep bees) as well to prevent their robbing in straw-hives, as their killing in the colonies. By Moses Rusden, an apothecary; bee-master to the King's most excellent Majesty. Published by His Majesties especial command, and approved by the Royal Society at Gresham Coll. London, printed by the author, and are to be sold at his house next the sign of the King's Arms in the Bowling Alley ... 1679. First edition.

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Csuja László for permission to use his photos and for help with compiling this page. Thanks also to William T. Eagleton of the Yahoo Warrebeekeeping e-group for help with contacting Csuja László and initiating enquiries.