When to reduce hive size


My question is when should I reduce the size of a warré hive for winter?

This my first year with bees and I have two warré hives both of which were populated with swarms in June. The hives were increased in size over the summer and now stand at 4 boxes high. Both hives contain a full top box and are probably 2/3 full of comb in the second box, but the end comb visible through the window is mostly empty. I have also occasionally seen bees clustering in the third box of the stronger hive.

Should I remove some boxes now while it’s still warm, or are they likely to bring more nectar in and build more comb before winter? Also how many boxes should I leave them with, just the two containing comb, or a third for space?

Thanks for your advice,

South Oxfordshire

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3 Responses to When to reduce hive size

  1. simplebees says:

    Tall empty Warrés can be unstable in strong winds so, if the hives are in a position that catches wind, I would take them down to two boxes if the lower two boxes are empty and would do this before the end of September.

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  2. johnmkubwa says:

    Warré suggests over wintering on two boxes. I usually leave a third empty box underneath; it acts as a buffer against any cold draughts of air from the entrance; and holds the brood comb well above any varroa and detritus which has fallen on the floor. I agree with Gareth’s September timing.
    I have enjoyed the conundrum of having a strong 5 box hive with bees in all boxes. I harvested the top box in late August/ early September but the bees from box 5 needed space. Add to that a strong autumn ivy flow where bees were storing nectar/honey in the lower box. I left the hive at 4 boxes content that hot air rises and the colony would be snug in the top 2 or 3 boxes.
    Each situation is different.
    John H, Stockbridge Hants

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