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BBY BEEKEEPING FOR THE 21st CENTURY

Harmful modern methods

The following are some examples of what Warré had to say about framed hives and the beekeeping methods that they encourage. This information is paraphrased, rather than directly quoted from the book, to make it easier to understand.

Some people regard the frame as essential to monitoring the hive for disease, checking stores, etc.. But I regard frames as one of the main causes of disease. In facilitating visits to the inside of the hive it increases such visits which exhausts the bees in re-establishing the hive temperature, weakening the colony and increasing its chances of contracting disease. There is no need for frames to assess the state of the stores. If in autumn one leaves the necessary stores, there is no further need to bother about them. There is no need for frames to check the state of the colony. If the bees are bringing in pollen, there is a queen and brood. All is well. The number of arrivals and departures at the hive entrance indicate the strength of the colony.

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And then the frame enthusiasts have to ask themselves: how long does the framed hive keep its mobile frames after the bees have been installed? Two years at most. Many beekeepers do not do proper spring-cleaning and the frames are soon stuck to each other and to the inner surfaces of the hive. It becomes impossible to remove the frames without damaging them and also without squashing a lot of bees. So why use frames?


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I would really like a hive to be a book but I am sure that it should remain almost always closed. Bees like solitude. Therefore, opening the hive goes against the bees. Modern methods also force the bees into harmful overwork. Overwork leads to weakening and weakening makes them more prone to contracting any disease. It is the same with bees as it is with people. Diseases develop increasingly in modern apiaries, above all the awful foulbrood.

People call in vain for visits by distinguished veterinarians, for remedies from knowledgeable chemists, for registrations and sacrifices from beekeepers. It is the cause that should be eliminated. Let us stop going against the instincts of bees. Let us stop ignoring her needs.

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The People's Hive is criticized for almost completely preventing the application of modern methods which are the future of our beekeeping. But it is my opinion that these modern methods are the death of beekeeping and that only the People's Hive will be able to save it. I emphasize the following facts:


The bee has survived for centuries in hives with fixed comb without suffering. Things are no longer the same with the framed hive and modern methods. 'It is a certain fact', says Berlefech 'that the invasion by foulbrood in Germany dates from the same time as the framed hive. Before this time there was very little manipulation of hives, foulbrood was hardly known about as it was so rare; but, since then, it is as well known as it is frequent". Since this German's cry of warning, we notice in magazines, in manuals, at apicultural events that beekeepers are having to fight against foulbrood more and more. And they talk of fighting against this disease by creating a costly official bureaucracy, which will be a danger because it will carry the disease from a sick colony to a healthy one.


Warré found that opening the hive in the spring was particularly harmful. The following is from pages 139-141 of the book. This information is paraphrased to make it easier to understand.


Beekeeping textbooks recommend opening hives at a spring visit for four reasons:


· to see if the queen is present
· to check the state of the stores
· to clean the frames
· to start the renewal of comb


The presence of the queen can be established without opening the hive. There is definitely a queen in the hive if the bees are bringing in pollen, if their coming and going is normal and steady, and if they do not show any concern, i.e. they do not appear to be looking for some lost treasure-their queen.


The stores will certainly be sufficient if they were made up in autumn as recommended. But in modern hives you cannot do without the process of cleaning frames. For this, the frames have to be taken out one by one, the wood scraped on all surfaces to remove propolis. In this operation there is a risk of crushing the queen between the frame uprights and the walls of the hive. Or equally, when the frame bearing the queen is replaced in the hive, glad at finding their queen after her short absence, the bees press themselves around her, surrounding her completely, squeezing and often suffocating her.


Three quarters of all queenless colonies are the result of manipulations of the brood chamber.


In any case, cleaning the frames and removing the old ones should be done in early spring because at this time one is less hampered by brood, which is not yet abundant. But in early spring the temperature is not very high. Moreover, it is obvious that the work at this spring visit takes a considerable amount of time, and I do not hesitate to point out that one man will not necessarily find sufficient sunny days in early spring each year between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to do the work that this visit entails.

We designed our People's Hive to avoid opening the hive in spring by enlarging the hive from underneath and harvesting honey and wax from the top. Because of this, comb is renewed every two to three years. In spring, we need only clean the floor and add hive bodies without opening the hive, without our having to be concerned with the outside temperature and without fear of crushing the queen. This work can be done at any temperature and at any hour of the day.


Whereas the bees thrive better in a small hive in winter, in summer they need lots of space. With many hives that are enlarged by adding boxes above the brood chamber, there is very significant chilling of the hive and the queen may stop laying if enlargement is done too early. With any hive, if enlargement is done too late, the bees have already prepared for swarming and nothing will stop them from doing so. The swarm might then be lost. In either case, the honey harvest will be reduced. Good beekeeping guides have given wise counsel: put on the first super when all the frames in the brood chamber except the two at the extremities, one each side, are covered with bees, then put on the next super when the first is partly filled with honey. However, this advice avoids neither cooling the brood chamber each time a super is added, nor a lot of work for the beekeeper. One may have to open the hive several times to check how many frames are occupied, for all the hives in a single apiary are not at the same stage. The same vigilance has to be exercised for the first supers. Here are the causes of repeated chilling of the brood chamber, which annoys and overtaxes the bees and increases work for the beekeeper.


As was stated previously, with the People's Hive, we can increase its size from below. We can do this very early in the spring, and only once, with as many boxes as the strength of the colony demands. We avoid swarming due to a lack of space. We need not fear chilling the brood nor annoying the bees and we avoid a lot of trouble. This enlargement of the hive from below is real and leaves the space freely at the disposal of the bees. The main cause of swarming, lack of space, is therefore greatly reduced by our method.

But Warré Did Do Some Manipulations

After having read what you have so far, it should be easy to see that Warré went to great lengths to devise methods of beekeeping that required very little opening or manipulating of the hives. Many people think that this is where the story ends, but it's not.


Now we'll stop to take a look at the things that Warré did do to manipulate his hives. These are procedures that Warré not only found acceptable, but beneficial. And not just beneficial for the bees, but for the beekeeper also. Warré was, after all, a commercial beekeeper intent on producing as much honey as possible each year.


It is important to note that Warré's manipulations involved mostly working with entire hive bodies, rather than with individual combs. It should also be noted that he always tried to carry out these activities quickly and during the most favorable weather.