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Warré Beekeeping

Nikolay Vitvitsky's tiered top-bar hive

vitvitsky_hive.jpg (68211 bytes) 

Nikolay Vitvitsky (1764-1853) used the same hive concept that was later to be used by Emile Warré, only the upper two boxes were narrower and shaped as truncated pyramids.

Short description

The main (lower) boxes were cubic and measured 10 x 10 x 10 inches (254 mm cube). Vitvitsky said that such a hive shape is more closely resembles hollow tree cavity, because such cavities are always narrow at the top and wider at the middle. Small swarms develop better in the narrow boxes, i.e. those with the form of a truncated pyramid which contain from three to five combs. When the upper narrow boxes were filled with honey, Vitvitsky took them off and used only the main cubic boxes (10 x 10 x 10 inches). If there was a heavy nectar flow he would nadir (add boxes underneath) with boxes that were even wider.

More detailed description

The height of all boxes is 10" (254 mm).

1st pyramidal box: 7 x 7 inches (178 x 178mm) at the top and 8.5 x 8.5 inches (216 x 216 mm) at the bottom. This very narrow box was used for installing very small or late swarms.

2nd pyramidal box 8.5 x 8.5 inches (216 x 216mm) at the top and 10 x 10 inches (254 x 254 mm) at the bottom. This box was used for installing ordinary swarms. Vitvitsky was asked by some beekeepers: "Why does he make such narrow pyramidal boxes? Bees fill them very quickly at good flow", and he answered that it is worth making such special narrow boxes and putting into them practically every young swarm (except very large ones), because one does not know if the weather is going to be good or bad.

3rd box is cubic  -  10 x 10 x10 inches (254 x 254 x 254 mm). Such boxes were main, narrow pyramids were used only one season, after that  several cubic boxes usually were used for nadiring.

During very abundant nectar flows Vitvitsky nadired hives with wider truncated pyramids, each 6 inches high:
A - 10 x 10 inches at the top and 15 x 15 inches at the bottom
B - 15 x 15 inches at the top and 18"x18 inches at the bottom.
C - 18 x 18 inches at the top and 21 x 21 inches at the bottom.
He harvested these wide lower pyramids in the autumn/fall and the colonies wintered in the cubic and/or narrower boxes.

The top-bars  were 1 inch (25.4 mm) wide and the space between them was 1.5 inches (38 mm) -- nota bene: not between top-bar centres. No comb starters were used on top-bars, so bees built combs as they wish, even at right-angles etc the direction of the top-bars. The top-bars were not intended to provide movable combs. They only served as anchors for the combs. The combs continued from the top boxes to the lower ones. And the length of one whole comb could reach more than one metre. Vitvitsky considered this to be an advantage for bees -- they would have no interruption in the comb building.

And every box had two or three pairs of the criss-crossed spales (thin sticks) within it. The ends of the spales projected outside the hive for 1.5 inches (38 mm) and the beekeeper could then tie the projecting ends of the spales of different boxes with the cord or wire to fasten the boxes to each other. The ends of spales had notches cut in them for the cord.

A colony wintered in two boxes of the Vitvitsky hive (cubic boxes 10 x 10 x 10 inches or in the narrower pyramidal ones. To prepare the hive for winter he nadired an empty box without top-bars under the 2 boxes full of combs and honey.

To harvest honey from the boxes, Vitvitsky cut the combs with wire. He harvested top boxes at the end of spring or during the summer. He checked if the top boxes are free of bees by removing the plug from the observation hole made in the wall opposite the entrance.

In the last edition (1847) of Vitvitsky's book (A brief science of the practical beekeeping) it can be read that near the end of his long life he slightly increased the dimensions of the boxes. So for northern regions he advised:
- a main cubic box 10.5 x 10.5 x 10.5 inches (267 x 267 x 267 mm);
- if the hive was cylindrical straw one, then a main cylinder was 11.375 inches diameter (290 mm) and 10.5 inches (267 mm) high.

In southern areas he considered it possible to add seven eighths of an inch (22.2 mm) to the width. With this wider format, one might thus speculate that if Vitvitsky had been asked what size of main box should be used in France, he would perhaps have answered, 'Warre format'.


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We thank Serg, Perm, Urals region, Russia for the material on this page.