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Beekeeping for All:

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Warré Beekeeping

Floors, sumps and stands

Modifications to Warré's floor design

The floor that Warré specified is formed from boards nailed to two battens with a notch for the entrance and an alighting board nailed underneath.1 The illustration below shows one that has been removed for cleaning at the spring visit. The beginnings of entrance restriction with propolis is visible.

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Sumps were introduced as a base for Warré hives by Dav Croteau and John Moerschbacher in 2008. Since then a number of structures have been experimented with that incorporate one or more of the following features:

1. Entrance, floor and stand combined in one unit
2. Mesh below the entrance
3. Drawer below mesh for Varroa etc monitoring
4. Rear access for cleaning and/or inserting a mirror or a feeder
5. Rear access and is deep enough to insert a mirror or feeder and has an insertable floor (solid or mesh) that goes just below the bee entrance when not feeding or viewing with a mirror
5. Material falling from the nest above falls directly or through a mesh to the ground (soil, gravel, paving slab)
6. Board with/without a layer of insulation (woodshavings) on it as the floor of the sump.

If hive design is taking any guidance from natural honey bee nests then there is some support for the sump concept shown by the drawing of a generalised nest in Seeley and Morse (1976).2 About 20% of the nest height is below the entrance. This is based on a study of 39 nests, several of which were completely dissected.

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Steve Ham's (Spain) combined sump, stand and feeding chamber

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The photo above shows Steve Ham's (Spain) hive base configuration. Note the sturdy splayed legs for stability, the rear access door for a feeder and cleaning, the bee entrance formed by holes drilled slanting upwards from the outside to the inside of the front, the sheet of mesh over the wooden floor to prevent bee access to the debris.

Dav Croteau's (Maine) sumps

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Dav Croteau's sumps comprise a box resting on a concrete paving slab. There is no entrance in the sump but each box above has a closable entrance. As shown in the photo below, there are grooves cut in the bottom rim to allow drainage of water. These sumps are cut from recycled polystyrene/styrofoam hive boxes, hence the slots in the sides, which were hand-holds on the original boxes. The polystyrene is resistant to rot. 

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Vic Johansson's (Alaska) sump

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Vic Johansson's sumps are140 mm deep. The entrance slot is cut in the upper lip. The entire rear slides open, and inside there is a board floor. Thus it functions as entrance, floor, and stand combined. The rear can be opened to check debris or put some feed inside, and there is no risk of entrance getting blocked by dead bees, which in his climate is a real possibility with other floor designs.

John Moerschbacher's (Alberta) sump

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John Moerschbacher's sump (shown above) differs from that of Dav Croteau in that there is a mesh screen over the top of it immediately below the hive entrance that is cut into the rim of the sump. It rests on the ground. It is essentially a mesh floor in which the ground replaces the drawer commonly fitted under mesh floors. There is no access for draughts under the mesh.

Tom Bruwier's (Belgium) sump with litter

Left: base        Centre: sump contents retainer mesh         Right: sump box on base

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Left: boring/drilling bee entrance holes              Right: holes closable with beer corks

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Left: sump filling layer 1 -- leafy twigs                                Right: sump filling layer 2 -- dry leaves

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Left: sump filling layer 3 -- humus                                      Right: sump filling layer 4 -- fresh lawn clippings

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Left: sump filling layer 5 -- wood shavings                         Right: sump filling layer 6 -- sawdust, bark

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sump_bruwier12.jpg (69948 bytes)       Tom Bruwier's sump in place on a Warré-FG hive


Larry Garrett's (Mid-western USA) floor with rear access

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Larry Garrett's floor (above) is a shallow sump with a wooden floor, a grille at the top and a shutter at the back with catches to hold it in place. The bees enter below the grille (see below) and pass into the brood chamber via the slots in the grille. The shutter at the back allows access for cleaning and could if required admit a feeder, mirror or camera.

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Other hive floor arrangements in use generally comprise variations on mesh floors as used in conventional hives.3 Many designs are available. In view of the fact that mesh floors can increase winter stores consumption by 20%,4 or even increase the Varroa burden,5 it would be a wise precaution to at least have the option of a closeable airtight drawer under the mesh.

Stands and legs

Warré's design for a hive floor support in wood is shown below.1

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The pillar on the right supports the floor. The pillar on the left locates the leg unit against the outer edge of the floor and sheds rainwater. The foot offers a wide enough area to stop the hive from sinking into the ground and, because of the slight projection (shown on the left in the diagram), increases stability. This is important as there has been at least one Warré hive toppled by winds and there are a number of pictures on the Internet of legs of Warré hives, which, although they are usually of a satisfactory thickness, are entirely within the perimeter of the hive floor.

Warré advised placing the hive entrance 100-150 mm of the ground, i.e. lower than is common practice. His main reasons were that having the hive higher exposes it to gusts of wind and variations in temperature, and makes it more difficult for laden foragers who have rested in front of the hive to access the entrance.

A common solution is to place the floor on two concrete building blocks.  

David Heaf's Warré hive stand

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The stand in the above photo is 300 mm high, made of scrap wood and resting on a pre-levelled, recycled paving slab. Note that all four legs are outside the perimeter of the hive, a detail that becomes increasingly important the taller the hive.

Uli Schläpfer's (Switzerland) stand

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The photo above shows an example of Warré stands on steep terrain. They comprise posts driven into the ground and a rack lashed between them. Although Warré advised against shared stands (pp. 48 & 66, ref. 1) because when working on one hive the disturbance can agitate the other, shared stands are in common use in beekeeping in general.

Bill Anderson's woodchip-filled sump

Note the heavy propolisation of the woodchips. This confirms the comment by Seeley & Morse (1976) that 'In finished nests the propolis layer was thick and completely covered the nest cavity's floor...'.2


1. Warré, É. (1948) L' Apiculture pour Tous 12th edition. Saint-Symphorien. Trans. Heaf, D. J. & Heaf, P. as Beekeeping for All (Llanystumdwy, 2007).

2. Seeley, T. D., & Morse, R. A. (1976) The nest of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) lnsectes Sociaux 23(4) 495-512.

3. See for example http://lesruchesdebrunehaut.multiply.com/photos/photo/1/33.JPG

4. Villa, J. D., Rinderer, T. E. & Bigalk, M. (2009) Overwintering of Russian honey bees in northeastern Iowa. Science of Bee Culture 1(2), 19-21

5. Chapleau, J. P. (2003) Experimentation of an Anti-Varroa Screened Bottom Board in the Context of Developing an Integrated Pest Management Strategy for Varroa Infested Honeybees in the Province of Quebec. http://www.delta-business.com/CalgaryBeekeepers/Bee-Club-Library-2/AV-BOTTOM_BOARD1.pdf.