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  1. #1
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    Apr 2013
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    Default My full size warre style observation hive

    Hello - I've been lurking for many months and am so grateful to all who share their experiences here.

    I have this warre observation hive, 2 warre hives, 2 foundationless langstroths and a top bar hive. I had two top bars last year that didn't make it through the winter. I think they got cold, so I'm trying the warres and quilts on the langstroths. So far, the outside warres are BY FAR the first up and at in every morning. My husband helped me build the observation hive at warre dimensions - I installed a package in the observation hive April 1 of this year and they seem to be full of zip! The top box is mostly drawn and they've just started a little comb in the middle box. Interestingly, they seem to hate the old seed comb I gave them and chewed it out and dropped it onto the top bars of the middle box - hence, some cross-combing in the back of the top box -- but they seem to have straightened out as much as they can, are chewing away the old comb, building straight in the middle box, so I'm just leaving it be. The old seed comb I gave them in the second box they are also chewing - they have also filled it with nectar and it's a drone-feeding station as far as I can tell. I have often read that bees will never store nectar below the brood nest but this hive is living proof to the contrary. The outside hives got similar comb from the same old hive and seemed to have no issue with it.

    Just for kicks, I'm trying out a few alternate design top bars that are narrower and have a wire frame, but the bees do seem to be drawing most happily on the regular top bars. Time will tell. I fed this hive for a couple of weeks and they took syrup with gusto, but, by accident that I won't get into here, I didn't feed the outside hives and when I checked them last week they drew out just as much comb and have plenty of brood in just the same time, so no more feeding for anyone right now! Our redbuds are in full and glorious bloom.

    Here are some views of the observation hive. I built it because I'm crazy about watching the bees and with warre hives you're supposed to leave them alone as much as possible. I wanted to see how the bees behave and move into the various boxes in a normal sized hive, not a flattened out skinny hive (although I can see how those types of observation hives are absolutely awesome to watch, too!). I hope this hive can help me manage my outside hives better. I was worried about the design for this because it isn't really a standard design, and while I'm sure over time that we'll realize that some things should be different, this hive has really been beyond my expectations so far - it's been utterly transfixing (even my kids - 18 months and 3 years old - are obsessed with it!) and while I was expecting to see very little of the queen with a full-sized hive like this, we actually see her every day, checking out the new comb for empty cells to lay her her eggs. We see all the little bee dances and can watch a lot of brood on the sides and front, so I'm thrilled. The hive is made of two main parts - an outer case with wood and acrylic that slides up off the inner hive and inner warre-sized cast acrylic boxes that stack on each other with notches cut for the bars. The bees enter through a tube into the hive floor and have no access to the space between the two walls. There's a small mesh opening at the top for ventilation and feeding. I have a fourth acrylic hive body so that when the bees fill up the bottom box I can remove the top box, clean it out (maybe even get some honey) and nadir with the fresh empty box. The whole thing is bolted down to a (very well affixed) shelf on the wall. I can detach the tube at the hive and I can slide shut the window entrance, too.

    Please don't fret about the side wall comb attachments --- that's how warre hives go!

    warre style observation hive.jpg
    warre observation hive.jpg
    combs.jpg

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    27

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    And some more images...

    Here is the "drone-feeding station"
    drone feeding on lower comb.jpg

    The queen yesterday afternoon
    queen.jpg

    Two kinds of top bars...
    two kinds of top bars.jpg

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Murray KY, USA
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    263

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Well isn't THAT interesting.. I'd seen one other like it some time ago.. Never see many full plexi hives though.

    *squints* So... Did you shake them in while in the house?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gaithersburg, MD
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    342

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Interesting. I used to make these types of things for ants when I was kid. Have you had any problem w/ water.

    If you keep them in the house for the winter too I wonder how this will affect them. Will the cold at the end of the tube be enough to keep the bees from flying off to forage? W/out the cold they will never form a winter cluster and may need a LOT of feeding even though they don't have to work as hard to keep warm--they'll be rearing brood. Have you planned to feed a pollen substitute in winter?

    If you don't want it to swarm you will need to super. All my warre's never moved into a third box until after they swarmed (though I didn't use bridge comb)--even first year packages. I supered this year and my warre is already six boxes high--three boxes of brood, 1.5 boxes of honey and comb and the top box waiting to be worked. One box I had drawn out last year was placed on the bottom for use this fall as part of the broodnest (so I can remove the old top box).

    Top bars are of tropical origin and not really conducive to overwintering--though I guess folks have some success. Where they were developed it never drops below 60 F for the most part.

    We have incredible spring flows here. Apples about to open too. Hope it's this good when I retire to the PA farm.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Yeah, I'll probably wish it was glass when it comes to cleaning it! But my kids do throw things around. And glass is so heavy...
    The four legs are screwed to the shelf through the bottom of the shelf... unscrew them, cap off the tube, and the whole thing goes outside for management. One person can easily carry it now... it'll take two when it's full!

    Any thoughts on bees and light? I covered the hive most of the time for the first week, but now I just cover it at night and the bees seem to be fine with the light in the room - I've drawn the curtains to keep things from being too sunny. Queen walks around like nothing's wrong and lays everywhere she can. Bees seem to find the entrance without any trouble at all.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    553

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Wow! This is just amazing! Do you have a blog or site that you post about this and show the pictures?

  7. #7

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Really nice hive!

    Just make sure the hive holds the weight of 80 Kilogramms! It has to be strongly secured and attached to the wall.

  8. #8
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    27

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    [QUOTE=JClark;925825]Have you had any problem w/ water.

    Will the cold at the end of the tube be enough to keep the bees from flying off to forage? W/out the cold they will never form a winter cluster and may need a LOT of feeding even though they don't have to work as hard to keep warm--they'll be rearing brood. Have you planned to feed a pollen substitute in winter?

    If you don't want it to swarm you will need to super. All my warre's never moved into a third box until after they swarmed (though I didn't use bridge comb)--even first year packages. QUOTE]

    Hey, JClark - nice to meet a neighbor!
    Water condensation? There's a little bit of mist around parts of the top box, but it seems to be minimal. If it gets bad I'll drill a few more holes in the top, but right now I think it's ok. if I put my hand over the mesh at the top I can really feel the heat rising from the bees.

    Winter is a very big unknown. The bees went into some kind of cluster (I think) on colder days early this month. Hard to tell since they didn't have much comb to expand out onto. On cold mornings they do all stay cuddled together until the air outside warms up. Then there's a big exodus. I may need to feed. The tube is pretty short, but I don't know what will happen this winter. If they do rear lots of brood then I probably will give some pollen substitute later in the winter. I am surely open to advice on that!

    Six boxes tall! Awesome! I have been planning to super - it just seems crazy not to around here. Still on the fence about doing it to the observation hive, though. Do you think I should super warres now? We do get way more nectar than they can keep up with while the brood is blocking them, but I didn't know I could do it so soon with freshly packaged bees - they all only have the one box plus a little bit in the second right now - I was worrying about chilling the brood if I opened up the space above the nest too soon. I planned to super the outside hives after the cool weather this weekend leaves... maybe I should do it right now?

  9. #9
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    Really nice hive!

    Just make sure the hive holds the weight of 80 Kilogramms! It has to be strongly secured and attached to the wall.
    Thanks... I'm psyched about it. Have enjoyed your posts. The shelf is bolted with giant hardware into studs and concrete. It should hold a mid-sized elephant.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Pickens County, South Carolina, US
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    828

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    I'm a newbee but if this works I want one! Will follow the progress of yours.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Gaithersburg, MD
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    342

    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    [QUOTE=Margo;925845]
    Quote Originally Posted by JClark View Post
    Have you had any problem w/ water.

    I have been planning to super - it just seems crazy not to around here. Still on the fence about doing it to the observation hive, though. Do you think I should super warres now? We do get way more nectar than they can keep up with while the brood is blocking them, but I didn't know I could do it so soon with freshly packaged bees - they all only have the one box plus a little bit in the second right now - I was worrying about chilling the brood if I opened up the space above the nest too soon. I planned to super the outside hives after the cool weather this weekend leaves... maybe I should do it right now?
    I supered and nadired as soon as the cherries and pears were breaking. Would have done it earlier if it wasn't so cold. I've read that they really need the space before the flow starts so they know it is there and consider it part of their nest come flow time. They started drawing frames the first week as the pears and cherries peaked and the broodnest cleared up and has just expanded into the third box in the last week or so (I have windows on the brood boxes so I can see sort of what is going on). Supers are frames w/ foundation and I just shined a light down from the top to see if they were working them or not. Once they started I stopped looking. If they get to the top box I plan to insert a box for cut comb honey in between the supers.

    If your warre's are all packages I wouldn't super now but when they get just over half the second box drawn you can add a super w/ foundation or bridge combs (no empty box w/ starter strips). Only do this if it is earlier than the end of June. I don't know why but they seem to just stall out at two boxes and then swarm if the flow is still strong (they will even fill the third box w/ festooning bees but not draw comb--believe those are the ones that swarm). In July the flow really dries up so keep a close eye on them in Aug and Sep. They may eat all their stores and need to be fed to build up winter reserves. I have yet to see a good fall flow here and have had to supplemental feed every year (2 yrs now) even when I leave all the honey on (though I have never supered at the right time until this year--did it mid June last year and they just chewed holes in the foundation). If you get them through winter strong be prepared for some fun next year if you want a lot of honey!

    As for light, I think they can acclimatize though they prefer dark. It is the changes in air currents that annoy them the most when opening the hive up--not so much the reaction to the light. I wonder if they will try to propolize the plastic? My bees have never done this to the windows though I only open them a few minutes a day to take a peek.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Quote Originally Posted by JClark View Post

    If your warre's are all packages I wouldn't super now but when they get just over half the second box drawn you can add a super w/ foundation or bridge combs (no empty box w/ starter strips). Only do this if it is earlier than the end of June. I don't know why but they seem to just stall out at two boxes and then swarm if the flow is still strong (they will even fill the third box w/ festooning bees but not draw comb--believe those are the ones that swarm). In July the flow really dries up so keep a close eye on them in Aug and Sep.
    Very, very helpful tips, thanks. I think I will super the outside warres next week - they are well into the second box now - they're facing south, unlike the observation warre, which I had to face west for kid safety reasons. The observation hive is only just starting it's third comb in the second box. I may just leave the observation hive alone, unsupered, and watch it - I've learned so very much more these past three weeks than I thought possible and watching the swarm process take place might be interesting enough to be worth any loss!

    Quote Originally Posted by JClark View Post

    I wonder if they will try to propolize the plastic? My bees have never done this to the windows though I only open them a few minutes a day to take a peek.
    So far they're leaving the plastic alone except the rebates/cutouts where it meets the ends of the wood top bars - they've propolized those cracks pretty thoroughly in the top box already. The hive is really staying pretty clean - they throw any dead bees, wax bits or other trash out right away and they mostly walk up and down the wall facing the window and directly above the hive entrance, so while that wall is fine, but slightly dusty, the other walls have stayed nearly spotless. Time will tell...

  13. #13
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    Apr 2012
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    Gaithersburg, MD
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Since you have multiple hives I'd do the same thing--not super the observation hive. Plus, it would get too heavy to move outside real quick. Be sure to let me know if they start drawing in the third box (not just festooning) w/out swarming. I make statements w/ certainty but really only have hands on experience for two hives over two years. Everything I have read though seems to support my observations.

    My theory is that the two box size is the natural size of a hive that can afford to reproduce. Providing space up top gives bees a place to go so they think they are a smaller hive than they are--size estimation is an instantaneous process based on perceived congestion in the brood area, not how big the whole hive actually is.

    I think it is fascinating. The "natural" state is to build down (because they have to) while their preference is to actually build up w/ the queen preferring to move up to continue laying. So the bees being forced to work against their preferences in nature is what drives them to reproduce. Anyway, if things keep going the way they are I'm sure you will get a box of honey from your outside hives this year--be sure to harvest in the beginning of July or the bees may move back up and eat it by Aug/Sep (unless the brood nest is all the way in the bottom box completely).

    Of course, this year could prove to be completely different!

  14. #14
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    hive at 5 weeks.jpgcomb building on wire frame.jpg

    An update on the hive at 5 weeks: about a week ago, the population really exploded as new bees emerged and they started to draw comb in the second box. At the moment, they've got a chock-full top box and the second box has one full comb and three half-combs. Lots of brood everywhere. A little nectar at the very top of the top box. Per excellent advice, I supered the outside hives a couple of weeks ago and they've begun drawing lots of nectar-filled comb in the top box. It's beautiful. I'm still torn over whether to leave this one be and maybe watch a swarm or take the empty bottom box and put it on top for them. I'm requeening everyone at the end of the month with VSH Carniolan queens and I may do the same with this hive. Still debating.

    The wire comb photo shows how the half-wire frames are working out. The comb in back is from a pointed wooden top bar and has no wire, and the two before it have a flat wooden top bar and a wire frame. I'd say the wire is just trouble at this point. The bees fill inside the frame, no problem, then are distinctly slowed/hesitate for several days before overcoming the wire frame block and building on around it. They're building nice and straight regardless. Something to keep in mind if you're wiring your foundationless in other types of hives.

    Condensation: The bane of observation hives everywhere, it seems! Condensation in this hive has been slim to zero almost all the time although recently there's been a significant but brief mist over the bottom of the hive and in the entrance tube at the end of the day. I don't know if that's due to the returning bees or the cooling night air, but it's usually entirely gone an hour or so later. Today, for the first time, there's a bit of mist between the walls just above the bottom box. The brood area is always dry and I can see fine, so I'm waiting before drilling more ventilation holes.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    Looks good. Bet the moisture is because they are starting to get a significant amount of nectar being brought in for honey-making.

    Keep an eye on the carnis--they really can explode in population. I started a minn. hyg. italian and a carni (just the queen) hive from packages three weeks ago. Both got a medium box of comb and an empty deep. The carni queen has the whole medium box and three full deep frames full of capped brood and the italian just the medium. I've read about their rapid spring growth but seeing it is amazing.

    Finally got some good rain so let's hope the flow keeps going strong.

  16. #16
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    So... update on this hive.

    Condensation became significant and drippy, especially in the bottom box of the hive (?!) so I drilled lots more small holes in the top and a few in the plexi outer walls to release moisture that traveled through the wood bars and got trapped between the walls. Everything cleared up nicely within 48 hours of that.

    The hive DID swarm just over a month ago - they had filled the top box and were about 3/4 full on the middle box. I was there as they swarmed and it was really neat to watch - they ran around like crazy in the hive and then poured out. Of course, they picked a nice super-high tree to settle and ignored all my little lures and swarm traps, so I felt pretty hopeless about catching them, BUT literally as I gazed at them, I got a swarm call for a different swarm and went and easily bagged that swarm! So, ok.

    They built back up quickly and raised new queens - I saw two queens running around at one point, and then none, and then the hive suddenly settled down and a week ago I saw the new queen marching about and laying.

    I requeened all my hives with VSH survivor stock Carni queens last week, and left the observation hive for last. I did that one five days ago. I closed the window blast gate and then opened up the tube connection at the hive bottom and stuffed in some socks. Not a bee escaped, and my husband hauled the whole thing outside for me. He says he could have carried it easily even if much heavier. I'm not weak, but it seemed weighty to me. I removed the top box entirely and harvested six of the eight top bars that were fully loaded with capped honey... mostly tulip poplar, I'm guessing(over 12 pounds of bonus honey!), gave them back two of the honey combs and also moved some comb around so they'd have some to work with in the top box and a starter comb in their brand-new bottom box (I have four boxes total, with three in the hive at a time). I removed their queen and put in a box with the new VSH queen.

    It took forever to get all the bees back into the hive and the hive cleaned up, but it got done. I put it back at nightfall and reopened the blast gate, but most of the flying bees went to sleep on the window pane that night. They promptly started a dozen queen cells and then, yesterday, started to tear them down. Hooray! I could tell the candy was gone and the new queen was released, but not whether she was accepted. I saw her walking around yesterday. They've drawn lots of comb already and I'm hoping that they'll fill out their stores before dearth. I'd like to leave the hive alone until next spring.

    Hope you all had a lovely Spring.

  17. #17
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    Apr 2012
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    Gainesboro, Tennessee, USA.
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    This is really cool.

  18. #18
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    Feb 2013
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    Murray KY, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    What, no new pictures? *disappointed*

  19. #19
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    Apr 2013
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    Boyds, MD, USA
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    So here we are a few weeks later. Bees have drawn comb like crazy and now have seven fully drawn combs in each of the top two boxes. The new queen is laying in the top box. They stopped drawing comb about a week ago and are bringing in loads and loads of pollen this week.
    image.jpg

  20. #20
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    Apr 2013
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    Default Re: My full size warre style observation hive

    The boxes tipped toward the front as we replaced the hive on the shelf and the top bars slid in their rebates a bit. This left the space at the front wall just a shade too narrow for the bees to go through. So they've propolized it. I love the pattern. They've left little spaces for some kind of communication or air flow through their wall.
    image.jpg

    They are also putting little blobs of propolis all over the hive walls, so I've started to cover the hive when we aren't watching it. But they are also making little propolis pillars on the floor of the hive, so I'm not sure what their plan is. I keep thinking that the hive has swarmed, but they're all just out in the afternoons. And the drone population is way way lower than a couple weeks ago.

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