Comb built in the top box of a Warre hive

Here's an easy way to check up on a new colony in a Warré hive just to be sure that the package installation went well and all is O.K. Never perform this procedure during very hot weather, as comb collapse may occur. Since we can usually learn everything that we need to know by paying close attention to our bees' behavior at the hive entrance and also by peeking up into the hive through the screened bottom, this procedure is rarely necessary. But for those of you who just must have a closer look, this is how you do it.

After smoking the bees lightly through the screened bottom to calm them, remove the roof, quilt and window screen before smoking them lightly again through the top bars. Then, simply use your hive tool to separate the top box from the bottom and gently tilt the top box onto its side, resting on the bottom box. Use care not to squash any bees that may be walking around on the top bars of the bottom box.

*Note that the handles will be at the top and bottom when the box is on its side. This is so the combs will be vertical while you are inspecting. The box must never be placed so that the combs are horizontal or severe comb collapse will likely occur.


With our top hive body on it's side we can now see everything that we need to. Let's check it out. Obviously, the bees are doing a fine job of drawing straight comb. What more could a beekeeper ask for? Very nice, girls!


Here, you can see that the bees have maintained pretty good bee-space between the combs and the walls of the hive. On the right side of the photo, you can see where one comb has been attached to the wall. This is a good example of an attachment that would need to be cut prior to removing the comb for harvesting honey. More significant attachments are likely to occur as the hive becomes more established.

In this photo you can see some capped worker brood, so you can rest assured that the queen has been doing her job.

*Note that the cells making up the bottom inch or two of each comb appear to be empty. This is often the case, since the lowest parts of the combs are the newest. When looking for capped brood, you need to be able to see well up in between the combs. If necessary, use your smoker to force the bees deeper into the box, exposing at least a few inches of comb.

Capped brood in a Warre hive


Here's is a good photo showing the brood pattern. A little spotty, but this hive was populated with a natural swarm, so really not bad at all for what is probably an older queen.


Well, there you have it! A little smoke to get the bees back into the boxes and then put it all back as it was. If you perform this quick check on a nice day, when temperatures are not too cold or hot, the sunny is shining and there is little or no wind, your bees will probably be no worse off for it. Plus, you'll be able to rest with peace of mind that your bees are just fine...and to stay out of their way until harvest time.

Warre hive on a simple stand