What is a modified Warré Hive?
This is by far the most frequently asked question. A modified Warré hive is simply a Warré hive that uses frames instead of just top bars. Each hive body is 240mm tall, instead of the 210mm height of a standard Warré hive body. This extra 30mm of height is needed for two reasons. Firstly, when frames are used, the amount of comb in each hive body is decreased, so this extra height allows us to maintain about the same amount of comb in the modified hive bodies as are in standard hive bodies. Secondly, the height of 240mm is the same as a Langstroth hive body, which allows us to more easliy manufacture frames and keep down costs. Langstroth frames can be used after reducing only the length, rather than having to reduce their length and height.
This is a difficult question to answer, but it is certainly one that needs answering before you purchase any hives. Let me start by saying that we do not prefer to use hives with frames. The disadvantages of using frames include added cost and complexity, added labor to initially set up your hive, added maintenance and increased difficulty installing your bees. The advantages are few (and are not considered very advantageous by many, including myself), but worth considering. Frames do allow for more thorough inspection and studying of the hive. This might be an important consideration for new beekeepers who really want to learn about the internal workings of the hive and to become familiar with handling bees, as can be seen in our Some newbeeks may want to purchase just one modified hive to study and learn, and then later purchase standard hives if they wish to start a small apiary. Frames also allow a beekeeper to more easily manipulate the hive (one can move combs around or swap combs from hive to hive, if desired). Keep in mind that all of these practices are often harmful to bee colonies (please see Harmful Modern Methods).
The main reason that some may wish to purchase a modified hive over a standard hive is the issue of legalities (please see Are Frames Required?). In the early part of the 20th century, many states recognized framed hives as being essential to keeping healthy bees because they allowed the hive to be inspected more easily for disease (this was mainly in comparison to using skeps, not other alternative hive types). Therefore many states at that time passed apiary laws requiring beekeepers to use hives with movable frames.
Now with that being said, we have found that many people who believe their particular state has such a law are actually wrong. I was once one of those people because I read the 1913 Michigan Apiary Act online and saw that movable frames were required. What I found out later (when I called my apiary inspector to ask permission to use a standard Warré hive) was that this requirement had been repealed in 1993, and that I could legally use any hive I found suitable. We're also finding that many states have apiary inspectors who are quite flexible when it comes to enforcing this requirement, especially for hobbyists who are not planning to have more than a few hives.
One last point to consider is that modified hives can be converted to standard hives at any time, by simply removing the frames and replacing them with top bars. The only difference being that the hive bodies will be slightly taller than standard (240mm instead of 210-no big deal). So, if you want to keep your options open and be able to use either frames or top bars in the future, you may want to purchase a modified hive.
If you have decided that you want to, or have to use a framed hive, you may ask "Why shouldn't I just use a Langstroth hive?". Keep in mind that modified Warré hives give you everything that Langs give you, plus several advantages (please see Warré Hives).