Warre Hives

what is a warre hive?

A Warre hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses bars instead of frames, usually with a wooden wedge or guide from which the bees build their own comb. 

The Warre (pronounced: WAR-ray) hive is named after its inventor, French monk Abbé Émile Warré.  His design focused on simplicity, ease of management, and mimicry of honeybees’ natural environment. This hive is a vertically stacking top bar hive that incorporates natural comb and the retention of nest scent and heat. We've used these hives since 2008 and find them to be the most hands-off of any hive design.

Why use a warre hive?

Warre hives are ideally suited for the beekeeper looking for a low-cost, low-maintenance hive design. With a Warre hive, there is no need to frequently inspect the colony, purchase an expensive honey extractor or use foundation full of chemicals. Management of Warre hives calls for adding extra boxes to the bottom of the stack, causing comb to be regularly harvested and cycled out of use. This prevents old comb from being reused and therefore ladened with environmental and agricultural chemicals and toxins. 

In our mind the Warre hive is the ultimate design for natural, chemical-free beekeeping, and we’ve had tremendous success with our own Warres with little to no maintenance. 

Advantages of using Warre hives

• Ideal for hands-off beekeepers

• Simple management by the box rather than by the comb

• Lighter boxes

• Optional windows

• Foundationless

History of Warre HIves

Abbe Emile Warre developed the Warre hive over 50 years of research, culminating in what he liked to call “The People’s Hive” in the early 1950s. He studied over 300 hive designs, ranging from straw skeps to the modern Langstroth hive, analyzing their ease of use and suitability for honey bees. He focused on simplicity, ease of management and natural qualities including the building of natural comb (rather than pressed foundation) and the retention of nest scent and heat.

He frowned upon the invasive, tedious micromanagement of individual frames and combs as practiced by most beekeepers in his day. He decided that it was better to manipulate the hive box by box only a couple times a year, rather than comb by comb every couple weeks. This is key to the beekeeping philosophy that corresponds with Warre hives, and it is a tremendous shift away from the common practices used today.

Warre would typically add a couple empty boxes to the bottom of the hive in the Spring and remove the top boxes from the hive (full of honey) in the Fall. This allows for something few other hives offer: The continual cycle of new comb into and old comb out of the hive without the destruction of the precious brood chamber, as each year prior to Winter the bees move the excess honey stores to the top of the hive. This removes the pesticide-laden comb from the hive every couple years, making for a healthier, happier colony.

General hive management

Warre hives were designed to require minimal to no maintenance. Warre simply wanted beekeepers to add empty boxes to the bottom of the hive in the spring and harvest full boxes of honey off the top of the hive in the fall. Thus, Warre hives are meant to be managed by the box rather than by the comb. 


What makes bee built warre hives special?


The finest hives begin with top-quality lumber. We're proud to offer lumber options that are not only ideal for housing bees, but are environmentally conscious and long-lasting. Both of our wood options are FSC® certified. That means they come from forests that are strictly audited to promote growth, protect ecosystems, protect indigenous right, support surrounding communities and prohibit illegal logging. We don’t compromise our environmental standards when we source our wood, and we don’t compromise quality either. Both Western Red Cedar and Sugar Pine are stable, long-lasting woods that provide excellent insulation for bees. Both are harvested just a few hours from our mill in the Pacific Northwest. Whichever wood you choose, you're choosing a hive that is not only kind to the bees, but kind to the environment and the beekeeper. 


Warre hive boxes come with the option of a window. Windows are a great way to observe your bees without having to open the hive. For hands off beekeepers who are not inspecting individual combs, this is a great way to determine if it’s time to add more boxes for the colony to expand into. We recommend turning your hive boxes so the window sides of the boxes are facing away from the entrance so you do not need to stand in their flight path to peak in.


Most readily available Warre hives are built with butt joints or nails and glue. We know from experience that rabbet joints and screws provide superior quality and durability.


Improve the life and appearance of your hive by adding fitted composite copper roof with stainless steel screws. Not only will it help with rain and snow run off, but you’ll never have to paint or seal the roof. Copper composite doesn't corrode and leach into the soil like standard copper used in roofing. This composite material retains its color, insulates and reflects heat better than regular copper.


Keeping moisture out of the bottom of the hive is a must. Our Warre hives come with precision-milled feet that screw into the bottom board to prop the hive up off the ground. You can choose to put your hive on a stand, or simply rest the whole hive with the feet directly on the ground.


Wedge top bars are the most effective and strongest design, promoting beautiful, straight comb attachment and longevity. Our wedge bars are made from a single piece of wood, no gluing or staple construction, allowing for optimum quality and stability. Our Warre top bars also feature notches at each end to accommodate nails or brads for even spacing.We manufacture our bars on precision equipment from Sugar Pine; these are the same bars we’ve used and trusted for years in our own apiary.


All of our components are pre-drilled for easy assembly. The entire hive can easily be assembled with provided screws in 30-45 minutes depending on skill level and tools available. Or you can pay a little more and we’ll assemble the hive for you!


Our top bar hives ship free to the lower 48 United States. We ship anywhere in the world – if you’re outside of the contiguous states, please  contact us and we’ll get you a shipping estimate! We ship a lot of hives and we're incredibly conscious of the environmental impact shipping can cause. That's why Bee Built opts into UPS' carbon neutral shipping program. UPS buys certified carbon offsets to balance out the emissions caused by transportation of shipments. UPS has also supported projects involving reforestation, landfill gas destruction, wastewater treatment, and methane destruction. We're proud that we're able to demonstrate our clean climate commitment to our customers every time we ship a package. 


We not only build top bar hives, but we use them in our own apiaries in Portland, Oregon. Since 2008 we’ve tested our designs with our own 30+ honeybee colonies; we know they work well. We’re confident we make the best hives on the market, and we stand behind our products. Take a look at our  return policy to learn more.