The Bee Space

Materials List – Warre Hive Construction Guide


In this part of the Warre Hive Construction Guide we will look at the materials needed to build a Warre Hive. Warre hives are pretty simple to make. You only need five basic materials: wood, fasteners (like nails or screws), permeable cloth, insulating material and a finish to coat the assembled hive. Let’s take a look at the wood first.


There a number of wood varieties that are good for beehives. Pine is the most popular, with cedar a close second. Softer woods like pine and cedar tend to be used more often than hard woods on account of weight. Soft woods are often less expensive as well, compared to the hard woods such as oak, or maple. According to Emile Warre in his book “Beekeeping for All,” he found that the pine seems to work well and has the added advantage of low cost.

Warre also mentions that the wood thickness must be no less than 20mm(0.79″). He preferred 24mm(0.94″) for added strength in the hive box and floor. So a good wood thickness would be anywhere between 3/4 inch to 1 inch. In my hives, and in this tutorial, I have used 1″ x 12″ (callout) pine shelving. It is the same lumber size that is used in commercial ten-frame hives. Callout means that the lumber measurements are taken before the lumber is planed. Planing usually shaves off a little bit of wood. So a 1″x12″ board is closer to 3/4″x11.5″ than actually 1″x12″.

You will need about 30-60 board feet of wood per hive.

You will need about 30-60 feet of wood per hive, if you use a standard width of about 12 inches. To give you an idea of cost, 1″x12″ pine shelving costs around $1.24-$1.97US per board foot in the US. Also, you will need a 14″x14″ piece of thin wood like 3/8″ plywood to complete the roof.

On a side note, I have recently purchased some wood which was salvaged from an old barn. It is close grain cedar and still has the red barn paint on it. It makes a nice hive box! And, I don’t have to worry about treating the exposed edges since cedar is naturally weatherproof.


Nails or screws…what to use? In this construction guide, I use nails but I recommend screws. Screws work best to hold your wooden hive together. Wood naturally moves and twists as it weathers, so using screws helps to keep your hive tight.

Whether you choose nails or screws, just be sure that the width of your fastener does not split your wood. If you are using 1″x12″ pine, then 6d or 7d galvanized nails or similar sized screws work well along the joints. 7d nails or similar sized screws are almost perfect to nail the end joints, but they can be hard to find. Be sure to use galvanized fasteners since they resist rust longer than bright or regular finish fasteners.

You will need a few other sizes of fasteners to attach various parts of the Warre hive. As you can see in the hive box above, the handles are nailed to the side of the box. 5d galvanized nails work well for this, or similar sized screws. Also, you will need small short nails or metal pins to hold the top bars in place as you can see at right.

On the next page we will look at some more materials that you will need to build a Warre Hive.

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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.

Insulating Material

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!

Go on to the Construction Tips →