Stuck Warre

My Warre colony won’t move down into the second box and are completely jammed up in the top one.  I remember reading that in fact it was better to align the bars narrow side vertical, but that was after I installed the swarm in it, so it’s now very difficult to alter the layout.  Should I open up and knock out a bar from the second box to encourage the queen to move down? I’d really appreciate some advice.


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15 Responses to Stuck Warre

  1. FollowMeChaps says:

    NO! What are you asking, the whole thing is NOT to open. They are not ‘stuck’, rather the weather has been such that they are not building new comb at the mo’. Be patient – let the bees be bees and do things at their speed.

    • simplebees says:

      Oh, c’mon now Robin, stop sitting on the fence and give the girl some clear advice! 😉

      Seriously, though, you have a number of Warres that you have had running for a number of years. One reads about the phenomenon of bees getting ‘stuck’, not building down into a second box and eventually swarming – some say it is an issue and a ‘downside’ of Warre hives, others not. Robin, do I take it that you have not seen this in your hives provided that the beekeeper is patient, or do you see it occasionally but do not view it as a ‘problem’?

      Gareth, West Oxfordshire

    • Ali Twigg says:

      Couldn’t agree more, Robster!

  2. woodturner101 says:

    I moved a colony from an hTBH to a Warre six weeks ago. I filled the top box with comb which I cut to fit. The bees settled down well and were out foraging straight away. The Warre was sited in exactly the same spot the hTBH had occupied. However they did not build any comb in the second box. I was a little worried due to reading about “the false floor” effect so I added a third box underneath with no top bars and also cut down the entrance to less then one square inch by placing blocks of wood either side of the entrance close up to the box wall on the landing board. This was to make it as dark as possible inside the hive as this is a new hive and the wood is very white. My idea was to have the bees think they were in a dark hollow tree. The bees are now building comb in the second box. We have started a nectar flow here at last so maybe that too has had an effect. Could be a combination of all the above. Just wanted to relay my experience. I will add top bars to the third box when the comb is half way down the second box.

    Tony – South Yorkshire

    • Ali Twigg says:

      Why bother adding more top bars, Tony? Let the bees build longer catenary combs. They don’t have top bars punctuating hollow trees or roof spaces.

  3. woodturner101 says:

    Hi Ali, If the bee inspector decides to make a call then I need for him to be able to do his inspection without too much trouble. If I allow the bees to build comb as long as they like removing them would be a job and a half, probably with broken comb all over the place and very angry bees to boot (had this in the hTBH). I’m all for being as natural as possible but practicality rears its’ ugly head on occasion. I personally will not be looking into the hive at all and will only harvest honey from the top box if and when it comes available.

    Tony – South Yorkshire

  4. johnmkubwa says:

    If one box is full that sounds OK to me. My first concern is that a colony in a Warré manages to build a nest in a single box and stock it ready for winter. Warré advises overwintering a colony on two boxes of comb with a minimum of 12kg of stores. In two boxes, the cluster will start winter in the lower box and move up into its stores. The empty comb will provide laying space for the queen in the spring colony expansion.
    We have had a few swarms only fill one box by autumn and still manage to survive through winter; some have made it with only 6kg of stores. The following spring, the lack of comb can result in a swarm but I have known one colony fill 3 boxes with comb before swarming and another expand to 5 boxes and not swarm. Be patient let the bees decide on their colony growth.

    John, Stockbridge Hants

  5. churford says:

    Hi my bees overwintered in one box with another underneath and have grown slowly this year. Just recently, , they have started making more comb in haphazard way in first box instead of building comb in the second box. I’ve added a top box wondering if they’ll move into that as they don’t seem to like bottom box which I’ve left in place. I might give Tony’s suggestion a go. Anyone else have any suggestions?

    • simplebees says:

      Several of my Warrés appeared to be stuck in one box but in the last couple of weeks they have all ‘popped’ into the second, drawing out 7 combs in a week.

      Gareth, Cotswolds

  6. Tom says:

    I have a new Warre and they filled out the first box in short order but refused to move either up or down. Then they swarmed but I retrieved them and moved one comb into bottom box. This was three weeks ago. They have now rebuilt the missing comb in the first box but just form a big glob around the transfered comb without building any new.

  7. Varsham says:

    I’ve had the same problem and here is my conclusion. You should allow the colony to expand both towards down (for brood) and towards up (for stores). So, when I super or nadir boxes, I put one or two “frames” in each, which are easy to take because those are the marginal ones.

  8. Hi. I have a similar problem as a new Warre enthusiast. I added a small swarm in june and they have been very busy gathering pollen ever since. I have just checked, hoping to be able to harvest, but was very disappointed to find that the whole colony is happily living in the top box with nothing at all in the bottom or middle frame. I am just making a feeding frame to add pollen rich candy for the winter but wonder what I should do to finally find I have some honey? Would it be all bad if I check the current stutus of the top box and raid the honey if it is capped, adding candy frame of course to replace my harvest? Help much appreciated. Thanks.

    • simplebees says:


      It will help folk to answer if you could state where you are. This has been a very poor season in many parts of the UK, so it is no surprise not to have any surplus. I assume you have been monitoring the bees as they have developed and are confident that there are sufficient stores for winter? Many have been caught out by the poor summer and have been surprised by the lack of honey.

      Don’t even think about raiding the top box if that is all there is. But is there enough there for the bees for winter? It sounds as if reading one of David Heaf’s books on managing Warré hives might be useful. See here:


      • rawlings1 says:

        Thanks so much for this. I’m in Gloucester. I have added a kilo of pollen-rich candy to a feeder box on top of the top box so they have plenty of food and I’ll monitor regularly. I don’t want to let the warmth out so how frequently should I check do you think?
        Thanks again.

      • simplebees says:

        If the feed is in the top box, and the bees are accessing it via a hole in the top cloth, checking it will not cause much disturbance and can be done regularly. Ensure that the feed is well insulated to retain heat – this is most important, the warmer the hive is kept, the less food will be burned by the bees to keep warm. Also heft the hive by lifting the back an inch off the ground. Do this until you have a good feel for the weight of the hive. Then do it regularly through the winter to get an idea of the weight loss and, hence, usage of food.

        If you are in Gloucester, consider making contact with other Warré/natural beekeepers. See this map:


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