Episode-955- Matt Reed on Natural Beekeeping — 23 Comments

  1. Thanks for doing this show today. Beekeeping is really important and honey is such a valuable resource. I have been doing a bit of an apprenticeship and I am really excited about getting my own bees.

  2. Just a quick question on the Warre hives for Matt. Some detractors I have heard, site the difficulty of having to lift the whole hive to insert another box. How do you approach this, I have seen/heard of Warre lifting mechanisms etc. Being the boxes are much smaller than langstroth, I guess that keeps the weight down some.

  3. I built a top bar hive several years ago but never used it. I am reconsidering because of these last two shows. Well, that and the langstroth hive that’s so plugged up with propolis I can’t pry it apart…

    Thanks Jack.

  4. Jacob,

    Good question. The difficulty of adding boxes below was one of my concerns, too, when I first started researching Warre hives. I’ve used them for a number of years now and can say that it’s not all that difficult. In addition, you’re only doing this once or twice a year in most cases.

    I usually take the roof off (leaving the quilt box on top) to reduce weight. Then I lift as many boxes off as I can without straining myself. I’m not interested in getting a “beekeeper’s back.” Each box when totally full of honey is usually 30lbs or so. This means that the top two boxes may be 50-60lbs, which is all I’ll lift at a time. I pull off the boxes I can, set them aside on top of an empty box or a stand, then I put the new empty box(es) on the floor. Then I replace the boxes I took off.

    If you’ve got a buddy to help you it’s even easier, as you may be able to lift the whole thing, set it aside and then do the same process without separating anything. Or if you’ve only got two boxes on the hive, one of you can lift the thing, the other can place the new boxes and then put it back together. It takes all of 5 minutes or less in most cases.

    The nerdier way to go about it is, of course, to make a hive lift (something we hope to sell in the future due to the number of requests we get!). Here’s a link to the coolest one I’ve seen:

    And here’s a link to the best resource for those of you looking to learn more about Warre hives:

    So far I’ve never really needed a lift, as I’ve found it easy enough to lift them myself, but it wouldn’t hurt at all to have one!


  5. Matt, great to hear you on the Survival Podcast!

    I’ve have a new colony in a 2 box Warre hive for about 7 weeks now. The lower box has the observation window. I can observe that the upper box is about 90% filled with comb. There is no comb in the lower box yet. Should I expect more comb production / colony growth at this point?

    I am hoping they make it through the winter. I have no plans to harvest any honey until spring. I am on the West side of Portland in an agriculture zone and this colony was split and re-queened from a neighbors Langstroth operation if that matters. It seams like there is enough wild clover, mono-crop clover, and wild blackberry around my place to keep them happy.

    • Thanks Matt, that lift in the video was pretty slick. I can see now that the lifting the boxes isn’t really an issue. I have helped a family beekeeper disassemble a 10 frame langstroth hive to add a deep supper for brood, the Warre’ would be much lighter. While the number of times entering the hive is far less than conventionally managed Lang’s.

  6. Sounds like I should stop using lemon grass oil for my natural deodorant. :/

    • Lisapaintergirl,
      I don’t know if you spoke (wrote) seriously about using lemon grass as a natural deodorant. But if you do, keep it up. It won’t cause the bees to swarm on toy 🙂

      I make a natural swarm attractant using lemongrass oil, and accidentally discovered that, applied to a sting, it greatly relieves the pain. Such stings are on my hands, more often than not. I then continue working my hives. The scent seems pleasing to the bees, masking any alarm pheromes the stinger produced.

  7. Mark,

    Their production of comb depends on a number of factors, including: The size of the swarm/colony, the nectar flow in the area, and the genetics of the colony. A smaller number of bees is going to build significantly slower than a large number of bees. This is why a swarm of 20-30k bees can fill up a couple Warre boxes in a couple weeks (during a strong nectar flow), while at the same time a much smaller swarm may only fill part of the first box.

    The blackberry flow (the main nectar flow in the Pacific Northwest) began to dry up around early July, and at this point is pretty much over throughout the metro area. At this point we’ve entered the “dearth,” or the slow time for nectar flows and honey/comb production. Without food going into the hive the colony will not build.

    If they’ve only built out one box it could be difficult (though not impossible) for them to overwinter. I’ve successfully overwintered 1 box Warre hives, as they tend to be much smaller colonies that need less stores than a larger colony. Since they were installed relatively late, I would probably feed those bees starting toward the end of August up through late September. This will at least give them a boost before winter, and hopefully next season you won’t need to feed at all.


  8. Lisa,

    I suggest you continue using lemongrass oil deodorant and post the YouTube video of the swarm moving into your shirt! 🙂 I think it could go viral!


    • I second that, Matt. I just looked you up and you are about 15 blocks from where I work on Water Ave. I live in Washington though and have gone to Jacqueline Freeman’s classes up there. Because of that we were offered 2 swarms this spring. I missed out on two swarms because we didn’t have a hive built yet. I will have to stop in and see what you have.

      • I look forward to meeting both of you! Also, if you’re not aware of it already, there’s a great beekeeping association in Portland called “Portland Urban Beekeepers” (PUB). Currently they do all of their coordination via a Facebook group here:

        Secondly, on Saturday the 18th the Tour de Hives will be taking place. It’s a self-guided tour of apiaries throughout the Portland area. Some of our hives in Milwaukie will be on the tour. There’s a $5-15 charge to go (sliding scale). Check it out here:

  9. What’s THE book to read if you want to get into top bar hives and natural beekeeping?

  10. Comparing top bar and ware, how do they compare in hot and cold temperatures, does one handle the heat or cold better than the other?

    • They are both used in hot and cold temperatures. Some argue that horizontal hives don’t do as well in cold climates, but I don’t believe this. Michael Bush is a very experienced beekeeper in Nebraska who has run his horizontal top bar hives in subzero temperatures without a problem. Warre hives were developed in France in a similar climate to Portland, Oregon. There are beekeepers using these in all sorts of climates without issue.

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