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1. What are the similarities between a Perone Hive and Warré?
2. What’s the difference between a Perone Hive and Warré?
3. What are the dimensions of the Perone Hive?
4. The Perone Hive sounds heavy. What can I do to make it easier to lift?
5. 57 cm long comb sounds like it might be really unstable. Isn’t comb that big and heavy in danger of falling off the bars?
6. Can the bees really fill up all that space?
7. How long does it take for the bees to fill the Perone hive?
8. What do you need to build a Perone Hive?
9. How do you waterproof the hive?
10. What if there are gaps in my hive?
11. How do I get bees in the hive?
12. What do I have to do once the bees are in the hive?
13. If you don’t do any treatments or inspections how are the hives protected from Varroa?
14. If you never intervene in the brood, won’t the combs get dirty and diseased-prone?
15. Some people say Perone hives only work with Africanized bees. Is this true?
16. Some people say Perone hives only work in tropical zones. Is this true?
17. How do I harvest the honey?
At first glance, a Perone Hive may look like a Warré, and indeed they do have some things in common.
They’re both TOP BAR VERTICAL HIVES – Neither utilizes frames or wires, so the bees draw out their own comb. The bees make their brood in the bottom part of the hive and store their honey reserves above the nest as they do in nature.
- SIZE – A Perone, particularly is much bigger than a Warré and other mainstream hives as well. As a result, the population in a Perone is bigger.
- CHANGES IN SIZE – In Warrés, boxes are added underneath the hive as the bees continue to extend comb. Perone intended his hive to be maintained at its full size all year round.
- DISTANCE BETWEEN THE BARS – Perone bars are 24 mm wide with a 9 mm space between bars, because in feral hives Perone observed a distance of 33 mm from the center of one comb to the center of the next comb.
- WINTERING – Perones don’t have a quilt like the Warré, but they do have another type of insulation – wax and honey, both of which also have incredible thermal mass. You can think of bees in a Perone hive like people in an adobe house; the bees are generating the heat in their cluster and the material of their home is helping them maintain the heat inside that cluster. It’s important to know that when it comes to bees, their goal isn’t to heat the whole hive, just themselves. Some people though who are trying out Perones in colder climates are incorporating Warre-like quilts, and that’s fine.Some other heat-related differences to keep in mind between the two types of hives:Since there are more bees in a Perone, they have an easier time generating heat
Finally because the distance between the bars is smaller than other hives, less heat escapes from the hive.
Perone hives have a capacity of 280 L, 185 of which are in the Brood. The interior of the Brood is a cube, 57 cm. x 57 x 57, while the supers are 57 x 57 x 10 cm. in height. These dimensions plus the width of the comb grids, the roof , and floor form the Golden Rectangle. If you haven’t heard about the Golden Rectangle, you can see more about it here.
Some beekeepers are experimenting with the dimensions making their hives a bit smaller depending on their climate. (For example 50 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm instead of 57 cm) We’ll let you know their results as their new hives progress.
For further details about hive dimensions, including measurements of the bars, please visit the Making a Perone Hive section of our website where you can find various images and plans to guide you if you decide to build a hive.
The Brood – You should never have to move the brood. Peace is one of the key ingredients for healthy bees, and when bees get moved, they get stressed.
The Supers – Some people are making hives in which they place 2 mini supers, side by side in place of one 57 x 57 x 10 cm super. We ourselves haven’t tried it but we see no reason why it won’t work out. We’ll let you know what we hear from people who are doing this.
We do know two people who’ve experienced this in Chile. The hives were in full sun for nearly the whole day, so we recommend setting up the hive so it will receive shade in the summer but sun in the winter. (behind a deciduous tree for example)
It is also important to place sticks in the brood space before installing bees, so that the sticks will help support the comb. Alternatively you can build your hives like this:
Bees have an innate talent to make long combs like the ones shown below. What they lack in most modern beehives is the space.
6. Can the bees really fill up all that space?
Yes, bees for millions of years have made tremendous hives, the size of the Perone hive, or even larger.
Langstroths, Top-bars, and Warrés were made smaller so people of all ages and physical strengths could manage every part of them, including the brood. However, when bee colonies are smaller they can’t complete all the tasks of the hives efficiently, tasks like cleaning the hive, foraging, and defending the hive.
Inside a Perone Hive the bees will first draw out comb from the bars downwards. After they’ve drawn out comb from every bar in the brood, they will start to fill the space above them – the Beekeeper’s space.
That depends on your nectar flow (among other environmental conditions) and what kind of bees you have in the hive. If you have a big Prime Swarm in the hive you may see progress more quickly. There are people who’ve had Prime Swarms fill the brood in 100 days and there are people who’ve even had harvests their first year.
If your bees come from a domesticated hive it’ll take them a little bit longer to return to their roots so they’ll be a bit slower at filling the space. Expect to wait two or three years before you get your first harvest, but after that you’ll have a sustainable system established. Don’t look to a Perone hive for a quick dollar or harvest; it’s a long-term investment, but a good one we think.
Wood, a saw, a hammer, and nails. To make things as easy and economical as possible, Oscar Perone suggests buying 4-inch wide boards. Using these you can make EIGHT 57 cm x 57 cm boxes: 3 for the supers and 5 for the brood. In the case of the brood, you won’t quite be at a cube yet. Oscar typically fills out the brood with a smaller box to complete the difference. Obviously though, you’re welcome to use whatever dimension of board you feel fit or have readily available. Just make sure it hasn’t been treated with any chemicals!!!!
We char our hives with blowtorches. This waterproofs them. The majority of outdoor paints and varnishes have insecticides or other chemicals that just are bee-friendly so we don’t go there.
Another eco-freindly alternative is coating the hive with linseed oil.
Some beekeepers we know cover any spaces by nailing bars of wood over them on the inside. Others fill these spaces with wax that they have from their other hives.
We fill the gaps in our hives with cobb, an adobe like mixture, in 2 layers. The first layer is 1 part clay, 2 parts sand (not Bahamas beach sand, we take gravel from the streets, strain it and use the finer part) and 3 parts straw. Add water until you have dough, similar in texture to what you’d have if you were making bread. The second layer is 1 part flour paste (Flour cooked in water), 1 part crushed horse manure (for the fibers) or if you don’t have horse manure or don’t want to touch house manure, a REALLY REALLY finely cut straw, 1 part clay, 2 parts fine sand.
There are three options here, and some are more doable than others depending on what conditions you have.
A. Prime swarm enters the hive by itself.
B. You can catch a swarm in something smaller and later place it in the hive.
C. You can transfer an entire Langstroth into a Perone.
We’ll explore options B and C in further detail below.
Instead of making a comb grid as a separate piece, incorporate it into the body of the Bees’ Part. Nail two support bars along the sides of the bees part 24 mm from the top, so that you are left with space to place the bars that make up the comb grid. Once you have secured the two support bars, you can start to place the top bars above them, taking care to leave 9 mm of space between each one and its neighbor. Nail the bars down, but leave five bars out and place them in a smaller box instead.
You can then catch/place a swarm in the swarm catcher and allow it to start drawing out comb and placing brood. Afterwards you can easily transfer these bars with the swarm into the Perone comb grid.
C. You can transfer an entire Langstroth into a Perone. It’s not the ideal option for a Perone hive, but it may be useful for people who already have Langstroths and wish to transfer them to Perones. We had tried with nucs, but only 1 out of the 8 nucs that we placed survived the winter. It was a bad season when we did this (a very rainy summer that limited nectar flow and wiped out many crops) and most of the nucs we used didn’t have enough strength to recuperate the conditions. Langstroth families placed in Perones faired much better. We placed 1 in a Perone and it is in its second season. Our friend Miriam Ortega started 19 Perones from Langstroths and 16 out the 19 survived the winter and are in their second season.
Leave them in peace. Watch them start bringing pollen to the hive. Take photos.
When working with Africanized bees in Argentina, Perone observed that they were highly resilient to threats from the start. Our experiences with European bees has been different; we find that once they fill the bees’ part they are highly resilient, but while they’re in the process of getting there, the beekeeper should monitor them.
DO WATCH out for yellow jacket nests in the ground 300 meters within the vicinity of the nest, specifically towards the end of summer or fall. Yellow jackets become extra aggressive at this time because it is their mating season so they will attack bee hives for nourishment. If a bee hive is still developing at this point in can be in danger. The majority of Perones lost in Chile has been because of yellow jacket attacks.
Don’t feed them. (For why see CCD and Conventional Beekeeping: Feeding Bees sugar/HFC/other chemicals)
Despite what some people have chosen to do in some of the videos on this site, we don’t recommend trying to lift the comb grid. It can freak them out or break the comb.
You can check on them from the outside but for the most part try to leave them alone so that they can have the peace they need to meet their full potential.
About Varroa – since the centers of the combs are closer together than in Langstroths, less heat escapes the hive. The bees are able to bundle closer together, generate more heat, and maintain a temperature in the brood that is between 1 and 2 degrees higher than the temperatures inside other types of hives. This 1 or 2 degree difference is enough to keep Varroa out of the brood, because they can’t keep tolerate the temperature.
Another factor is cell size, which you can read more about here. If the bees in a Perone hive come from a feral swarm they build smaller sized cells than bees using commercial foundation. If the bees in a Perone hive come from a Langstroth, they will gradually go back to making natural sized cell within 6 months to a year and a half.
We have not had any Varroa or disease in hives that had proper spacing between combs.
In addition to us, there are at least 600 Perone hives in Chile. We either know these other beekeepers personally or are in contact with them via the PermApiculture Chile google group we take part in. No one has reported any problems with Varroa or disease in this style of Perone Hive. In fact this year many of the beekeepers here in Chile lost their Langstroths, but their Perones are still alive and well.
14. If you never intervene in the brood, won’t the combs get dirty and diseased-prone?
No one changes the brood comb in feral hives and they’ve survived for years. If the colony’s population is big enough or the genes are present, bees will manage hygiene and that management will be top-notch.
There are many people who believe that black comb has benefits for the bees that we don’t understand. Many beekeepers swear that black brood comb is the best bait to attract swarms. Black brood comb has also been found in various feral hives that were quite alive and well. Note the black comb in this massive hive that beekeeper McCartney Taylor removed from an outdoor closet in Austin, Texas.
There aren’t Africanized bees in Chile. The bees people are placing here in their Perones are European races or hybrids of Europeans and native bees.
Our particular region of Chile has a climate slightly cooler than that of Seattle, Washington, or Portland, Oregon, and the bees do fine here. We had one hive particularly in the mountains that was covered with snow for three weeks and it came out of the winter strong.
For more about how a Perone hives winter see:
2. What’s the difference between a Perone Hive and Warré? D. Wintering.
In the second or third year of the hive you’ll have honey in the Beekeeper’s Part of the hive. Harvest at night when the bees are down in the brood, so you won’t bother the bees. Also use a red light, since red light is not visible to bees.
You don’t need any expensive equipment to harvest. Oscar uses a metal cart with a frame, a cloth, and a bucket:
You pass a knife between the comb grids and the super, place the super on the frame on the harvesting cart, pass a knife inside the super, and the honey and wax fall into the bucket.