How to Assemble the Warré Hive

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You’re coming down the home stretch. It’s time to stack things together and build your Warré hive. Start at ground level and work your way up.

Screws and nails will go in easier if you first drill a 7/64 inch hole in each spot you plan to place a screw. The pre-drilling also helps prevent the wood from splitting. Do this for all the components you assemble.

Consider using a weatherproof wood glue in addition to the fasteners. It helps make the assembly as strong as possible. Apply a thin coat of glue wherever the wooden parts are joined together.

  1. Assemble the hive bottom and stand.

    Place the landing board on a flat surface and position the floor board on top of it. Center the landing board (left to right) under the 4-3/4 inch notch of the floor board. The rear edge of the landing board should be flush with the rear edge of the floor board. Secure the two pieces together using six 5/8 inch screws (flat-head Phillips).

    Optional: If you’re using knotty pine, paint the exposed wood of the bottom board with a good quality outdoor paint (latex or oil). It greatly extends the life of your woodenware. You can use any color you want, but a light pastel or white is best. Alternatively, you can stain and use a few protective coats of polyurethane or marine varnish.

    This also applies to the hive body (see Step 2) and the roof assembly (see Step 5).

  2. Assemble the hive boxes.

    Note that you build a total of four hive boxes. The instructions for each box are identical.

    Affix the two long sides to the two short sides by hammering one 6d galvanized nail into each of the hive’s four edges. Hammer the nails only halfway in to make sure everything is square and fits properly — you have no room for adjustment after you drive these nails (and the remaining 12) all the way in!

    Use a carpenter’s square to make sure the box stays square as you assemble the hive body.

    When everything looks okay, you can hammer the four nails all the way in, and do the same with the remaining 12 nails.

    Now use the #6 x 1-3/8 inch galvanized deck screws to attach the two hand rails to opposite sides of the hive box. Choosing which sides get the handles is up to you. Center the hand rails left to right and top to bottom. Use five screws per hand rail, spaced and staggered by eye to prevent splitting the wood.

    In place of using wooden hand rails, you can attach flush-mounted, galvanized (or stainless steel) handles to the hive box. You can find these handles in hardware stores or marine supply stores. They provide you with an excellent grip.

    Check all sides to make certain that all the nails and screws are in place.

  3. Assemble the top bars.

    You’ll assemble a total of 32 top bars. Assembly simply consists of gluing a thin strip of balsa wood into the kerf cut groove. This is the starter strip that gives the bees a starting point to build honeycomb on the top bars. For each bar, center the starter strip into the kerf cut and glue in place using weatherproof wood glue. Let the glue dry before proceeding.

    Melt 1/2 pound of beeswax over low electric heat or in a double boiler. Use a disposable brush to coat the starter strips with a thin coat of beeswax. This further encourages the bees to get started making comb.

    Never melt beeswax using an open flame! Beeswax is highly flammable.

    Now place the top bars into the hive body. The bars rest on the top edge of the hive body and are butted side by side, like the wooden bars of a marimba.

    Never paint your top bars because that could be toxic to your bees. Leave all interior parts of any hive unpainted, unvarnished, and all-natural.

  4. Assemble the quilt box.

    A quilt box provides insulation to the hive. Affix the two long sides to the two short sides by hammering one 6d galvanized nail into each of the hive’s four edges. Hammer them in only halfway to make sure everything is square and fits properly.

    Use a carpenter’s square to make sure the box stays square as you assemble it.

    When everything looks okay, you can hammer the four nails all the way in and do the same with eight additional nails. I use three nails (evenly spaced by eye) in each of the four corners.

    Using a staple gun, attach the sheet of burlap to what you designate as the bottom of the quilt box. This breathable barrier holds the insulation material in place while allowing for air circulation and ventilation. Use as many staples as you deem necessary.

    Finally, loosely fill the quilt box with insulation material (such as dry leaves, straw, or natural wood chips).

  5. Assemble the ventilated roof.

    Affix the peaked gables to the two sides by hammering one 6d galvanized nail halfway into each of the gables’ four edges.

    Use a carpenter’s square to make sure the assembly stays square, and then hammer the four nails all the way in and do the same with eight additional nails. I use three nails in each gable’s four corners (evenly spaced by eye).

    Now set the inner cover board on top of the edges of the short sides, and attach using four evenly spaced 6d nails on each side. Precise spacing isn’t critical — do it by eye.

    You nail the two inclined roof boards to the gables. Use four evenly spaced nails per edge. Align the roof boards such that there’s a 1-5/8 inch ventilation gap at the peak of the roof.

    Finally, attach the ridge rail to the peak (covering the ventilation gap). Use two 6d nails at each end of the ridge rail.

  6. Stack all the pieces together to create the Warré hive (see the following figure).

    Place the hive bottom and stand on the ground. This serves as the landing board and bottom of the hive. It also elevates the hive off the damp ground and improves air circulation.

    Stack the four hive bodies (filled with the top bars) on top of the hive bottom and stand. These boxes are where the bees build their comb, raise their brood, and store their pollen and honey.

    Now add the quilt box. It provides a layer of insulation for the colony. Make sure you’ve loosely filled the box with dry leaves, straw, or natural wood chips.

    Finish everything off with the ventilated roof, which, in addition to ventilation, protects the colony from the elements.

    Hooray! You’re ready for your bees.

    [Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]
    Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

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