Warré Beehive: Spring Inspection at Belinda’s Urban Apiary

| Beekeeping, Courses + Workshops, Natural Beekeeping, Off-Farm goings on, Urban Permaculture | 13 comments | Author :

Last weekend Tim Malfroy checked Belinda’s bees at her small urban apiary in Sydney. This is the apiary we take our Sydney Natural Beekeeping  students to as part of their course, so it was great to see how the hive had wintered. Spring has sprung in Sydney, and the bees were busily buzzing!

Belinda’s warré beehive has been going since early spring last year, and it seems to be a fine example of urban warré beekeeping. Five boxes high, and full of honey, healthy brood and happy bees. The hive is located in Belinda’s chicken run, which has a couple of benefits…

Belinda's bees, all very busy on this warm spring day...

The first benefit is keeping her family safe from the unlikely but possible calamities that soccer balls etc can cause in the backyard. Since the beehive is inside an enclosed chicken run, there’s little chance of a ball whacking into the hive and causing the bees to get cranky.

The second benefit is to the beehive itself. Small hive beetle is a big problem in Sydney and has devastated many an urban (and rural) apiary. Having this hive in the chookrun helps deal with this problem naturally.

The thing is, part of the life cycle of the small hive beetle is outside the hive, in the ground. The grubs pupate there, before crawling back up into the hive as adult beetles. So that means they need to make two trips from the hive to the ground nearby.

As you might guess, this is where the chickens come in. Chickens love beetles. They also love grubs. As an added bonus, the chickens are not at all bothered by the bees, and peck around the hive quite happily.

This is very good news for the beehive, as the chickens are taking care of their pest management issue by controlling the small hive beetle larvae and beetles, completely without chemicals, and producing eggs to boot.

Finally, the chicken run enclosure provides a fabulous trellis, up which can be grown leafy bee fodder plants. It’s a great example of good permaculture design and honey chicken, all in all!

The lid of the top bee box holds a record of each hive inspection
Just below the lid, a layer of hessian prevents having to 'crack' the lid off the top box of the hive, a great bee-friendly addition...
A warré frame (with side bars) from an upper box, full of capped honey and some brood
A frame from a lower box, full of healthy baby bees (click to enlarge)
A frame from an even lower box, on which the bees are building fresh comb.
Inspection complete, Belinda and Tim carefully put the boxes back on (in order, of course)

Lastly, Tim secures the hive. The bees will now be left to do their thing till later in the season

Thanks again to Belinda for opening up her apiary to our students, to Tim Malfroy for his ongoing expertise, and to Anthony Andrist for the great photos.

Our future Natural Beekeeping courses are here.

Are you near Mudgee NSW? Come along to our Milkwood Social screening of Vanishing of the bees on October 5th, with guest speaker Tim Malfroy! It will be a great night.

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  • Thank you for the update on this hive, we have been following this one with great anticipation as we have started building our own Warre hive and are getting itchy feet. We nearly bought a standard hive (with bees) last weekend and can’t wait to be producing our own honey.
    Also thanks for mentioning the small hive beetle issue, we will look into this when it comes to siting our hive.

    • you’re welcome – good luck! beekeeping is an amazing and fascinating journey – prepare to be hooked!

  • Brilliant idea re the chicken run, not having done your bee course yet I won’t have thought of the beetle. As I am about to build a chook tractor, I will keep bees in mind for when we build a chook run in the future.

    Mmm honey chicken (makes Homer Simpson drool sounds)

    • yep they’re a good combo, for sure – especially in urban situations where small hive beetle is a problem… plus some of their (the chooks and the bees) needs line up, so it’s a match made in paradise, really!

  • What a great idea! Will have to do the same when we get our chickens!

  • Jess

    Hi Kirsten, How can we hook up with Belinda, is she part of the Urban Bee Collective on Facebook? We have quite a few people wanting to do the course, prob in November! V excited.

    • Hey Jess, don’t think Belinda is opening her backyard up for anything except the beekeeping courses at this point (she’s got a family, and a busy life)… not sure whether she’s part of urban bee collective… email me about it?

  • Linda

    Love the bees in the chickens coop. Brilliant! Isn’t nature just always so onto it! Mother Nature just never ceases to amaze…x

  • max

    I also keep some of my hives inside the choock run and have done some counts. Inside the chook run the number of SHB is about 50 to 60% compared to hives outside.
    For the sake of the chooks the run is partially shaded and the SHB love these conditions. In summer I have found that it is less likely for a hive to slime-out in the full sun.
    Also the live cycle of the beetle is such that the chooks are asleep when we need them most!
    It deserves more research.
    At the moment I’m selecting hygenic queens and use a beetle trap which I change about every 3 weeks.
    I hope that this selection will also be beneficial when Varroa arrives.
    So far it works for me.
    ( I’m not a commercial beekeper – producing about 2500 kg of honey per year)

  • Nadine Armstrong

    I’m guessing the chickens don’t bother the bees and vice versa? And my hive is less than a foot off the ground. Do I need to raise the height so the chickens can have access to the ground underneath and get access to the larvae?

    • Nadine i would raise the hive so it was a good foot off the ground – cinder blocks are a good stable base – so the chickens + bees can happily co-exist. Havent heard of any inter-species botherment thus far 🙂

      • Nadine Armstrong

        Sounds awesome. Thanks!