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The Warre hive has an insulating box called a quilt that sits on top of the uppermost hive box underneath the roof. To the bottom of the quilt is fastened a permeable cloth. This cloth holds the insulating material inside the quilt. At the same time, the cloth allows the hive to breath through the quilt.
The cloth can be cut from any number of permeable fabrics. Burlap, hessian, and cotton canvas all work well. Most of these fabrics can be purchased at a local craft or fabric supply store. As you can see in the picture, I have used cotton canvas. You will need about 4.5 to 5 square feet of cloth for each hive. That is about 1.5 yards of canvas when cut from a 60″ roll. When I purchased it, the cotton canvas cost about $4.19(US) per yard.
Before you place the quilt on the top of the hive, it needs to be filled with an insulating material such as peat moss, pine shavings, chopped hay or sawdust. You will need a couple of pounds per Warre hive.
There may be other types of insulating material that would work well in a Warre hive. Feel free to experiment. Just be sure that the material you use does not pack down in the quilt but instead stays light and fluffy. This will ensure good air circulation and will make it easy for the bees to air condition their hive.
Choosing the finish for your Warre hive is the best part of the building process! From linseed oil to paint to stain…the choices are many. Linseed oil makes a nice natural finish. White paint is often used on ten frame hives. I have also seen some Warre hives that have been stained with a natural stain and then painted with designs of flowers and bees.
Beware of finishes that block the flow of air and moisture through the wood such as varnish or shellac. These finishes will not allow moisture out of the hive and your bees could asphyxiate. Another problem these finishes can cause is an excessive buildup of mold inside your hive.
One novel finish is a mixture of linseed oil and beeswax. This mixture is put over a heat source and slowly heated. Then the hive components are dipped into the hot solution. Some people opt for painting the hot mixture on to the hive parts with a paintbrush. After drying for a day or two, the hive is ready to assemble and use.
Next up are some Construction Tips and then we will start assembling the Warre Hive!