Setting Up a Second Hive

At the moment I have one Warre hive on a two-hive stand.  I have a second Warre hive ready for occupation, which I intend to place on the stand next to the occupied hive.

I have two questions which I hope someone will be able to help me with:

1 – Is it ok to have the entrance of the new hive facing the same way (south) as the existing hive, or should I rotate it so that it is facing a different way (east)?

2 – Should I set up the new hive with just two boxes and add more as the colony expands, or is it ok to set up the four boxes right from the start?  (Cavities in hollow trees don’t grow to accommodate increasing colonies).

I’m very new to this, so any advice would be much appreciated.


(Chandlers Ford)

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4 Responses to Setting Up a Second Hive

  1. simplebees says:


    In my experience bees are very good at telling left from right and can tell the left entarnce from the right one even if they are next to each other. Moreover, I recently heard at a meeting of scientists who study bees that up to 40% of bees in a hive do not originate from that hive. What was missing from this statement was any context, so I don’t know how close the hives were or their orientation etc. It might follow from this that there is little difference in having the second hive at right angles. Does facing the entrance east expose it to cold winds? If so, I’d be tempted to go for both entrances facing south.

    Good point about tree cavities. Tom Seeley’s work suggest that bees like holes with a volume about the same as two Warré boxes. In addition, without a strap, tall hives are unstable until the boxes have been propolised together.

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  2. grahambrookbanks says:

    Thanks for your good advice, Gareth

  3. johnmkubwa says:

    Graham, I have used two-hive stands for two colonies, but no longer do so. They are unnatural; Bees in the wild are usually isolated with a separation of 600 metres or more (Seeley, Lindauer). This separation reduces competition for food and any risks of spreading disease from one colony to another.
    Beekeepers put hives together for convenience but often pay scant regard to colony density and forage availability in an area. If food is scarce, the beek has to feed, and often uses sugar; too much sugar reduces the immunocompetence of the Bee and the risks of disease and ill health increase.
    With 2 colonies on the same stand, any work on one hive will certainly attract the attention of bees in the second. Defence pheromones from one colony may set off the other’s defensive behaviour. Any exposed honey will attract bees and may trigger robbing.

    My two-hive stands are still useful; used with a single Warré hive the stand offers a spare platform for use in box manipulation or somewhere to place tools.

    I echo Gareth’s point about hive stability. Empty boxes will blow over, but boxes heavy with honey and brood which are stuck together with propolis will survive quite strong winds. My own experience when starting Warrés is that swarm bees will build the nest comb in the top box; when full, foragers will use a lower box to cluster and ‘hang out’ during the night. Unless a third box is added quite quickly (within 2 weeks), the expansion of the nest may be restricted and the colony will seem to ‘stick’ in the top box.
    JohnH, Stockbridge Hants

    • Hi John.
      As regards of the hive stand for the Warre Hive, mine stands on a concrete paving slab with the hive strapped to the stand the height of 9ins, but the wind still managed to blow it over, so to over come this happening again I have put short stakes at each corner well into the ground and then strapped the hive stand to the stakes. I am hoping to set up a third warre this year, what should the distance be from the other warre, as the Apiary is about 15yds x45yds in a orchard at a private house.

      John Cleverley.


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