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Abbé Warré's book
Beekeeping for All:

1. Printed edition

2. free e-book (PDF)

Warré Beekeeping

The Ecological Hive (La Ruche Écologique) of J-M Frèrès and J-C Guillaume

(sometimes referred to as 'Warré-FG') 

This beautifully and lavishly designed A4-size book in colour on high quality paper, details possibly the most popular variant of the Warré hive developed by Jean-Marie Frèrès and Jean-Claude Guillaume. The book first appeared in 1997 as a 430-page manual of beekeeping with their 'ruche écologique' (ecological hive). Jean-Claude Guillaume published a second editionin 2011 comprising two A4 volumes in the same style and format as the first edition, but increased to 804 pages.

  guillaume_2ed.jpg (28350 bytes) 

Above: 1st (left) and 2nd (right) editions of L' apiculture écologique de A à Z

This second edition was republished in Belgium in early 2012 and the present 2021 edition appeared in November 2020. (Editions Marco Pietteur). It is revised, corrected and enhanced with many colour illustrations. 

A publisher is still being sought who is willing to invest in the translation for an English edition.

It is a book for intended beginners and contains dozens of meticulously drawn diagrams which detail, step by step, various beekeeping operations. The approach is informed by many ecological or organic principles. The most important modification to Warré's original design is the introduction of shuttered windows in each hive-body box. The other two notable modifications are the insulated, ventilated roof with an integral quilt that moves up to accommodate a feeder, and the use of mosquito net instead of coarse cloth (hessian/burlap) under the quilt, i.e. the top-bar cloth. The most recent version has a modular roof which has the feeder unit, quilt and roof per se as three separate modules (see below). 

Chapters of the book (2011 & 2021 edition)

Copyright pages; contents of volume; Introduction

  1. Transition from skeps to modern hives, 19
  2. My personal journey as a beekeeper and my conversion to the more ecological Warré hive, 23
  3. Cost benefit analysis of modern versus Warré hives, 31
  4. Siting an apiary, 45
  5. Constructing the hive, 49
  6. Constructing the decontaminator. 91
  7. Setting up an apiary, 109
  8. The inhabitants of a hive and its organisation, 109
  9. Reasons for the formula 4 x '21', 119
  10. Tools and equipment, 149
  11. How the ecological Warré hive works, 173
  12. We add a 4th box, 213
  13. Natural swarms and their capture, 217
  14. The Warré ecological hive equivalent of shook swarming, 255
  15. Control and regulation of temperature and humidity, 291
  16. Harvesting honey, 303
  17. Honey, 321
  18. Wax, 339
  19. Propolis, 33
  20. Pollen, 359
  21. Royal jelly, 365
  22. Diseases, parasites and predators, 369
  23. Bee communication and orientation, 419
  24. My experiments and research, 425
  25. Moving a hive, 449
  26. Dealing with stings, 453
  27. Managing the hive: dos and don'ts, 457
  28. How to read the ecological hive, 461
  29. How to populate hives, 469
  30. Dealing with swarming and making increase, 537
  31. Partial bee transfer, 541
  32. Multiple bee transfer, 589
  33. Splits, 605
  34. Melliferous plants and trees, 611
  35. Beekeeping calendar, 661
  36. Recipes, 669
  37. How to improve a modern frame hive, 685
  38. Swarm composition, queen breeding and artificial insemination, 691
  39. Frameless hives 701

Chapters added in the 2021 edition:

  1. The Asian hornet (supplement to Chapter 22) 705
  2. Bee symbolism and its importance during world evolution 705

Conclusion; Homage to Abbé Warré; Acknowledgements; List of tables, figures and diagrams; Illustrations; Index pf melliferous plants, shrubs and trees; Index of latin names; Index of indicator flora for different bee seasons; Glossary; General index; State of modern apiculture; Bibliography; Contents; Jean-Marie Frèrès dedication  (pages 715-813)

As indicated above, the book contains a cost-benefit analysis of honey production in 'modern' frame hives versus Warré-ecological hives. The two costings (including the annual time taken per hive for each) have been translated and presented side-by-side in tabular format: guillaume_cost_benefit_analysis_2012.pdf .  

Roof (original version, 1997 edition of book)

As the roof is possibly of particular interest for dealing with condensation in cold climates we describe it here in some detail. Its main body is the same outside size as a hive-body box. To create a weather-proof seal with the box on which it rests, 50 mm wide battens are nailed round the lower rim on a 5 mm thick spacer so as to project over the hive body box below and yet give clearance to aid removal. A weather-tight seal is made with silicone along the top rim of the batten. The body of the roof box slopes from 180 mm to 150 mm forming a single-pitch roof and a large cavity big enough to fit a feeder. The roof box is closed at the top with a sheet of thin plywood. On top of that is fixed a 30 mm thick sheet of polystyrene/styrofoam insulation (protection from solar radiation). On top of that is the sloping roof board of plywood of an adequate thickness covered with roofing felt. A 60 mm diameter ventilation hole is bored in each side of the box and covered on the inside with insect/mouse-proof mesh.

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A significant further innovation with the roof is that a piece of cloth (wool) is pinned to the inside of the roof near its base to form a seal all round. This cloth normally rests on the mosquito net. On top of the cloth is glued a sheet of 50 mm polystyrene/styrofoam. This assembly is the quilt. There is sufficient slack in the perimeter of the cloth that when a feeder is placed on the top-bars and the roof replaced, the cloth, with the sheet of polystyrene glued to it, is automatically pushed up to accommodate the feeder.

The roof differs from Warré's in a number of significant ways:

  • it is almost flat, not gabled,
  • it is not used with a quilt,
  • vapour entering the roof space can vent to the outside,
  • it can contain a feeder,
  • it achieves its solar insulation primarily with polystyrene instead of an open 'loft'.

Roof (modular version, 2011 & 2021 editions of book)

The integral roof with inbuilt 'floating' polystyrene quilt and space for feeder develops to a 3-module system comprising feeder module, quilt module and roof containing the ventilation chamber. To view the hive cross-section image below at full size, click here. The 8-box hive shown on the right was photographed by Jean-François Seguin (Quebec) in the summer of 2012.

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The modular roof is described on pages 74-77 of the 2011 edition of the book. An illustrated translation of those pages is downloadable here.

window.gif (51090 bytes)Window

A window of 4 mm glass is fitted to each box on one of the sides not having a handle. Its aperture is 100 x 300 mm and it is set in 7 mm x 4 mm rebates above and below. It is closed on the outside by means of a shutter insulated with polystyrene/styrofoam. A detail of the window construction is shown below.

Having windows in a Warré hive is likely to appeal especially to the beginner. You can see to a certain extent what is going on inside, especially how far the comb has developed downwards. However, it is surprising how little of the life inside the hive is visible compared with removing and examining frames. Experienced beekeepers therefore may prefer to rely on information obtained from observing the hive entrance or, if necessary, by tilting one or more hive boxes to look underneath. It is doubtful if the windows justify the extra complexity and cost of construction involved. Furthermore, the use of polystyrene and glass increases the embodied energy and use of petrochemicals, both of which detract a little from the sustainability of this variant. Warré managed without windows and so do a number of contemporary Warré beekeepers.







view_through_a_window.jpg (24840 bytes)   w1combs070507top.jpg (51701 bytes)

Above: Views through a window before and after populating a hive

The information on this page was obtained from L' apiculture écologique de A à Z, by Jean-Marie Frèrès and Jean-Claude Guillaume (Villelongue-Dels-Monts, 1997 & 2011) and the lower three images from David Heaf's Warré experiment page.

41-minute interview with Jean-Claude Guillaume:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQttLf6Ie44 OR  https://vimeo.com/155521397

Chronicle No. 1 introducing the hive in its latest form (2013)

More about the hive in French:



First UK 'ruche écologique' (Warré-FG)?

The following is a description of Trevor Ray's experiment with the Warré-FG. The western red cedar Warré hive (before modification) was supplied by Matthew Mercy ( http://www.zorbanet.com/warre/ ).

Below left: hive front view showing ventilated roof and quilt unit with weatherproofing and locating battens
Below right: hive rear showing window shutters

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Below left: underside of quilt unit under construction showing contents retention mesh secured with 10 mm deep battens
Below right: underside of completed quilt unit with mesh, 10 mm deep spacer batten and weather batten in place  

guillaume_ray_quilt_underside.jpg (73075 bytes) guillaume_ray_quilt_complete_underside.jpg (75996 bytes)

Below left: quilt in place on box with weather battens covering the quilt-box interface
Below right: underside of roof unit adapted to rest on quilt top with the help of battens; meshed vents in all four directions

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The mesh for the top-bar 'cloth' and for the quilt contents retention 'cloth' is fibreglass fly screen coated with PVC.

After fitting the mesh and battens illustrated above, a 40 or 50 mm batten skirt (white in photo) is fitted around the bottom of the quilt, overhanging 20mm of the top box in order to cover what would otherwise be an exposed quilt top box joint. The batten is made weather tight by sealing with a bead of silicone. The quilt contents are contained in a mesh laundry bag.

A further modification being considered is a layer of insulation below the mouse board. There is space for it above the roof vent holes. Note that the roof is also vented above the mouse board, as per Warré's pitched roof design.

Below left: looking upwards at outermost top-bar and adjacent comb; top-bar mesh as yet not propolised
Below right: example of a top-bar mesh almost completely propolised

guillaume_ray_mesh_underside.jpg (104111 bytes) guillaume_ray_mesh_propilised.jpg (130728 bytes)

Enquiries about Trevor's version of the Warré-FG to: trevorkungfu (at) gmail (dot) com