Not much is worse than checking on a beehive…and seeing a lot of baby bee cells in with your honey.
You can’t get the honey out without killing the baby bees. And you can’t get the baby bees out without ruining the honey.
Not a good situation.
So how do you keep the baby bees out of the honey?
The best way to prevent baby bees (or brood) from getting in the honey is to keep the queen bee from laying eggs in the honey cells. That is simple enough…right? I mean, if you can keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey cells, then you fixed the problem.
That should be easy enough…
Well, sort of…
If you have a beehive with wax foundation and you put a new swarm into that beehive, the bees will often start to draw out honeycomb on several different frames at once.
They may start building comb in the upper hive box…and they may start building in the lower hive box. I have even seen them build comb in both boxes at once.
Baby bees in the honey? Hmm…
Is this a bad thing? No, but it can lead to baby bees in the honey. Here is why…
The queen bee always lays eggs in the newest and freshest honeycomb. That is just how honeybees do it. So, if you have a frame hive, the queen bee will find the new honeycomb and lay eggs in that honeycomb.
Often the bees will draw out comb in the upper hive boxes, and then start to put honey into that comb. At the same time, the queen bee will smell the new honeycomb and lay her eggs in it.
The result? Baby bees in the honey. Not the easiest to work with.
If you have a frame hive you can try to use a queen excluder to keep the queen bee towards the bottom of the hive. This does not always work. Furthermore, is a queen excluder really good for your beehive? The excluder forms a barrier in the hive. Such a barrier is not a natural feature in wild beehives. In natural hives, the queen bee is free to roam about the hive at will.
But, if the queen can go anywhere in the hive, won’t she lay eggs anywhere she chooses?
If you have a Top Bar Hive, the solution is simple!
In a top bar hive there is no foundation. The bees begin building honeycomb at the top of the hive box. They draw it down towards the floor of the hive. So, the older comb is always towards the top of the hive.
And the newer comb is towards the bottom of the hive. The picture on the right displays this building process.
Since the queen always lays eggs in the newest comb, the baby bees will always be towards the bottom of the hive.
And the all of your honey will be towards the top of the hive, since the honeybees prefer to put the honey into the older honeycomb.
If you take a look at the Cut Comb Honey Harvest post you will see how I harvest the top hive box from a Warre Hive. This box was completely full of honey. There were no baby bees at all, since all the brood was laid in the new comb in the bottom of the hive.
By the way, it is important to add hive boxes to the bottom of the bee hive so that the bees can always build comb downwards towards the floor. Since each box has a set of top bars, the comb is separated into sections the height of each hive box, making it easy for you to handle each box as a unit of honeycomb and honey.
So, in summary, when you use a top bar hive and let the honeybees build their own honeycomb without using wax foundation, you will hardly ever have baby bees in with the honey.
This translates to easier beekeeping for you, a more natural beehive for the bees, and a much more sustainable beekeeping experience since you don’t need to buy or use a metal or plastic queen excluder.
I like that. How about you?
the pic above, I can’t see how this fits in the box’s that you’ve shown how to build. can you explain please. thanks rick
rick – The picture above illustrates the building process of the honeybees as they draw out honeycomb within the beehive.
Hi again Nick – glad my question wasn’t too stupid then!!
So if I’ve got it right……
The process starts at the top with the queen laying amongst these combs, but as these fill up I put more boxes below which will be started on by the workers – she smells new combs and moves downwards. By the time the top one is full and ready to harvest, any babies she laid there at the very beginning will have hatched anyway, leaving nice grub free honey!
Nick – You got it! Once the bee larvae have hatched, the bees vigorously clean the cell and prepare it for honey storage.
Hi Nick just love your site and by the way i am a member of a BK club we are hobby BKs and i put your site on ours i hope you don’t mine our site is http://cba.stonehavenlife.com
Dan – No, I don’t mind at all! Thank you very much for doing that. You have a great site, by the way.
I hope you can answer this question; it’s not about the warre hive but the top bar hives that only have one level. If that makes sense. 🙂
I’ll be installing my bees next month. Will the bees put honeycomb on one top bar at a time? Or will they draw down their comb on all the bars?
I know this sounds stupid. I’m very excited but not very confident, however, I have a lot of faith in the bees to do whatever they do correctly.
eastlakecounty – Don’t feel bad asking questions! The bees will indeed build comb on all of the bars at once. They will draw the comb down more or less uniformly across all of the top bars in the hive box.
Thanks, Nick. I appreciate your help.
So after the bees hatch, do the worker bees then put the nectar and pollen in the comb that previously had eggs and larvae?
(total newbie here)
eastlakecounty – Yes, after the bees hatch, the house bees clean the cells and ready it for honey and pollen storage. The honeybees are fastidiously clean. A good example to me the beekeeper! 😉
I’m from the philippines,eager to know about beekeeping, as of now I am browsing about this site to learn more and I am very thankful for being enjoy reading your technologies about this and having the chance to discuss through email, my 1st question is that how can I have a queen for culture after I have construct my boxes?
Just reading though this site and I saw you were from ang Filipina islands. My sister and her family live there as missionarys. My wife is from Manila. Her family owns a farm in Bikol.
I have bees here. Iam interested in the bees in the Philippines. I’ve seen the beekeepers using coconuts artfully put together as hives. Have you had any experiences with these bees?
Hy nick love the site, am setting up something simular.
I think the Warre Hives are amaising.
I have a few questions for you if you dont mind,
how do you prevent the bees criss crossing the comb together,
how do you stop the boxes from getting stuck together,
also if you were to sell the honey say as cut comb wouldn’t the cells the queen layed in have cocons left in it therefore it would become a problem if that is what you intend to do.
I love the hole idea of having a peoples hive and the more simpler and natural the better, I feel if these things could be also made easeyer then the public would take it up much more readally
I donot have bees (my wife wont let me ) But I do have an interest in bees .I have lernt alot from this site Thank you Mike
I am currently working on a WBC hive and would love to build a bee wall in a walled garden and keep bees in skeps (as in ye olde days). I’m not intending to harvest the honey. Just wondering if you think the bees will remain happy and healthy living in skeps??
Hi Organicelf, Skeps are actually illegal in many countries do to the fact that they can’t be inspected for disease, parasites, etc. If there are other managed hives in the area then you may be putting them at risk. As awesome as it would be to have a bee wall like that, I can’t recommend doing it 😦
Thank you for your advice, much appreciated.
Just found your site while researching top-bar hives. We are new beekeepers (since July 2010), and we started off with a Langstroth setup. I intend to build a Warre hive over the winter for the next time our resident feral colony swarms. It has swarmed 3 times in the past year. We managed to capture the 3rd swarm, and they’re doing well, even at -30 Celsius for a couple of nights recently. What’s your opinion on using a kep to capture a swarm to be placed in a regular hive? I saw this done on a YouTube video from the Czech Republic, but the captions were all in Czecho-Slovak.
I’m looking forward to reading more on your site soon.
Thanks very much,
Pete Futter, Prince George, BC, Canada
Hi Pete and welcome to the world of beekeeping! I think using a skep to capture a swarm is a great idea. Very traditional 🙂 check out this section of The Quest for the Perfect Hive to see a picture of what your wanting to do.
Hi… I am in South Africa and is really interested in starting a beehive project in my yard… Now how do I get some good stock queen and workers here… I believe the African bee is a little dangerous…. which is the most passive bees and how do i find, or import them…..
Hello Nick. Thank you for your incredibly insightful site! Your site has been an answer to so many prayers on how to keep bees the way our good Lord created them! Hallelujah!
How do I know that the honey is ready to be harvested from the comb? How many hive boxes do I need to keep the bees when they are being wintered and where they have enough honey for their brood? Do I harvest 2 boxes and leave 2 for them? 3 for them and 1 for me? Thanks!
Hello Erez, Your welcome 🙂 once the comb is fully capped with wax then it’s ready. The wax capping keeps moisture out of the honey. Once a cell is filled and at the proper moisture content then the bees cap it. The amount of honey needed to make it through winter depends on how strong the hive is and your climate. You should check with a local bee club and get advice on what’s working in your area.
Found your site while researching warre hives – I am a second year beek with 3 Langstroth hives, and am considering building a warre to compare the two. The concept of adding new boxes to the bottom of the colony is very intriguing, though. Wouldn’t that work with Lang’s as well?? I don’t use queen (honey) excluders, so wouldn’t the same concept apply??
Hi Bill, sure you can under super a Langstroth hive. From what I understand under supering a Lang is not an efficient use of that style of hive though. I’ve never tried it but there has been alot of discussion and experimentation by other beekeepers. Try doing a google search on “Nadiring vs Supering” and you’ll have quite a few results to choose from.
hey, iam building a warre hive. ami correct in my thinking that you start with one box then put the next box under that one?
Hi Charlie, that’s right. Always add new hive boxes to the bottom.
thanks nick, best site i ever found . cant say enough good things about it.do you have any better pictures of the feeder”?
Hi Charlie, Thanks 🙂 Take a look at these pictures for the feeder over at biobees: http://warre.biobees.com/feeders.htm
Hi Nick, Nice site You have. I like the hive thinking a most natural way.
Is it not werry hevy to lift the whole hive when adding a new box to the bottom?
Hi Sutare, yes lifting them all at once would be very heavy. They have hive lifts which are pretty bulky or you can pull each box off one at a time, place your empty, then replace the boxes you took off in the same order and orientation on top of the empty.
Hi Nick, I need to move a hive and I understand night time is best, is this correct? Also, if there is very little disturbance to the bees, will they leave the hive at night (should I suit up)?
Thanks, Charlie in Texas
Hi Charlie, night is definitely the best time to move since all the bees should be back in the hive. I’ve wrapped the hive in a sheet in the past to help keep any stragglers from coming out too. If your careful then you shouldn’t need to suit up but have I would keep it handy just in case of accidents. Good luck with the move!
charlie | February 16, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
>hey, iam building a warre hive. ami correct in my thinking that you start with one box then put the next box under that one?
Nick replied, yes, but I think there is an understanding that during initial startup, one is generally best to begin with a 2 box minimum. Remember, the orininal was 400mm tall. Warré agreed w/an assistant, that it would be nice to have the box half-size, to avoid sometimes inadvertantly harvesting brood with honey. Boxes became 200mm+10mm for topbar-volume loss. But the shape of a cluster is a bit longer than tall. (There is some concern that a layer of bars does break up the thermal-continuity to some degree.)
Hi, I have been researching honeybees jjust out of curriosity, annd have found them to be far more facinating than I thought they would be. I do have a question though.
I know the process of laying egss and the larvae and such, and that queen bees like to lay eggs in the newest of honey comb.
Will you ever harvest honey and have dead baby bees in it? If this happens, how do you solve this? Do you just filter them out? Not going to lie, the idea of eating dead baby bees really freaks me out. but i feel like if that were a real thing, I would have heard about it at some point in my life.
You can cut these cells from comb before crushing it. Holding comb to the light shows pollen & larve. I saw dried 9rice-krispie – like) chocholate covered bees in choclate squares ~ 1960 in a lil town in Nevada. And of course, you “forgot” that the gov’t allows so many cockroach legs etc per lb of hotdogs & balogna, etc.
Much honey is super-filtered so even microscopic pollen is removed, so we can’t tell where it was made, (& embago countries that have sold us hoeny contaminated with poisons.) You might filter with cheesecloth at ~ 90F. A second pass might see you filtering the remaining wax-crush at ~150F, to get the wax. And honey from this, you can feed back to the bees, if squeamish. The debris will mostly, separate.
Nick, I am looking for a video showing how to add another box to a Warre hive. I know it is supposed to be added from the bottom, but what to do with all of the other boxes that are on the hive now? Do you just disassemble the entire hive from the top down then reassemble it with the new box at the bottom? Do you just put all of the other boxes (that have bees in it) on the ground? Aren’t you going to have a whole lot of angry bees?
My question, Can you nadir, say 3 boxes at the same time and be ok?
I too have a similar question to other people. I have einraumbeutes myself. There is no underbreaking of the wax comb from the horizontal top lathe in the frame as far down as the bees build wax. You do have sides to the frames. They are about 1.5 times as long as a conventional frame. When I read about under placing of new boxes in the Warre system I get an uneasy feeling that in some way destruction of some partsof the comb must happen if you part a box from the base of the system to add a new one underneath. I find that my bees very conscientiously defend all openings and uneven bits with propolis. So including the seams between the boxes. If you push one open to na’dir a new one underneath; how invasive are you being to the protected environment that the colony has tied to make for itself when you do this. Why not start with three boxes right at the beginning for instance? Then you propably wouldn’t have to add on underneath. So no disturbance. I know that it is perhaps more difficult for the bees to maintain the temperature in a larger space but that disturbance bybreaking the propolised boxes seems more invasive to me. Thanks for reading, Lindy
You said the queen lays eggs in the newest comb. Thus the eggs would be found toward the bottom of a bar. So at harvest time aren’t those eggs lost because they have to be cut away in order to harvest the honey above?
Hello fellow beekeepers!
I just got my first hive about 3 weeks ago and am starting with a top bar hive that I built.
that beeing said 🙂 , the bees themselves are doing awesome but I am working out the glitches with my hive and have a question.
I was wondering how and if, it is possible to prevent bees from building thick comb which runs into itself, thereby sticking two bars together. I am using top bars that are 1.5in thick. I tried using spacers but I had too many problems with the bees building comb on that too . Frankly my spacers weren’t meant to hold comb and I had a collapse so I decided to remove the spacers.
1.5″ thk?!? Surely, you mean to say, wide. But 1.5″ is past almost ALL combspaces, much less a topbar WIDTH. A typical Warré TopBar is about 1″ with ~ 3/8″ between each and the same on the ends. (I also speak metric, but MY Warré is non-metric.) If you have a hTBH, such as a
Kenyan,” this is not the most ideal blog.
To your issue, it almost sounds as if you HAVE a hTBH (horizontal TopBarHive,) whereas a Warré is a stackable TBH, much as a Langstroth, stacks. In this case, 1.5″ wide bars is not inappropriate. BUT it sounds as if your comb-guides are non-existant. (???)
These guides extend a wee bit below the topbar and indicate and coax bees to begin comb on them. Popcycle sticks, (glued into a groove in the topbar’s undersides’ center, and then waxed,) are 1 example. They need not be the full length of the topbar. Mine vary from 1/2″ near the sides to 2″ for the center guide. (Center?!? Yes. MY Warré is ~ 3/4 wider & longer and has 9 topbars; but the SAME area. Well, 1 Sq Ft. versus 300x300mm, which is 11.8″x11.8″.) In nature, a center comb is often 1st, at least in a tree cavity, so an odd number often results. I wanted the center-comb feature.)
I make a groove and implant a wee strip of foundation. This is very tricky at first, until you leanr how & mess up on a couple of them. Full sized foundations are asking for trouble as the topbars have no bottom bar to aid and bees can weigh the foundation & strip it from the topbar.
(Am midst move & ISP to die for a time, so others must not wait for me to elaborate. Speak up…! ;>)