Warre Hive vs Langstroth Hive

Two of the most popular beehive types used today are the Warre and Langstroth hives, each offering its strengths and weaknesses and appealing to different beekeeping methods and objectives.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between Warre and Langstroth hives, helping you understand which type works best for you.

History and Development

Warre Hive

The Warre Hive, also known as the “people’s hive,” was developed by Emile Warre, a French beekeeper. His goal was to create a simple and effective system that mimicked the natural nesting habits of honeybees. The Warre Hive encourages bees to build honeycombs as they would naturally in the wild and has garnered popularity due to this natural approach to beekeeping.

Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth Hive is widely used and well-known in modern beekeeping. It was invented by Lorenzo Langstroth, an American beekeeper, in the mid-19th century. Langstroth discovered the concept of “bee space,” which is the space bees leave between any two honeycombs. He then designed the Langstroth Hive, which uses removable frames that maintain the optimal bee space, allowing beekeepers to manage their colonies more efficiently without damaging the bee’s living environment. This revolutionary design has significantly impacted the beekeeping industry and continues to be a popular choice among beekeepers today.

Design and Construction

Warre Hive

The Warre hive is built with smaller boxes and uses top bars instead of frames, allowing bees to build their comb naturally. It encourages a more hands-off approach to beekeeping and is relatively inexpensive to build or buy.

The hive is comprised of multiple stacked boxes and a quilt box on top, which provides insulation and ventilation for the hive. The entrance is located at the bottom of the hive, and new boxes are added to the bottom as the colony grows (nadiring).

Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth hive uses frames with pre-built comb foundations, making it easier for beekeepers to manage the hive and harvest honey.

Like the Warre hive, the Langstroth hive has multiple stacked boxes. New boxes are added to the top of the hive (supering) as the colony expands. The Langstroth hive also features a bottom board for managing hive waste and debris and an entrance toward the bottom of the hive.

Management and Maintenance

Warre Hive

Beekeepers using Warre hives generally adopt a hands-off management style, leaving the bees to their own devices with fewer interruptions. This doesn’t guarantee healthier bee colonies since they are still susceptible to mites, but the colonies have a good chance of being healthy and safe.

In terms of maintenance, harvesting honey from a Warre hive is generally less cumbersome than a Langstroth hive. The process involves removing the boxes containing honey at the end of the season and replacing them with empty boxes to allow the bees to continue building their comb.

Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth hive offers greater flexibility and control for beekeepers, who actively manage their hives throughout the nectar-flow season. Langstroth hives are well suited for commercial operations, as they allow for larger honey yields and easier access to brood frames for inspections.

Management of a Langstroth hive involves regular inspections to monitor the health and productivity of the colony. Beekeepers often rearrange frames, control swarm behavior, and replace queen bees when necessary. Langstroth hives can be expanded or condensed to accommodate a growing colony, making them a popular choice for scalable beekeeping operations.

Maintenance of a Langstroth hive can be more labor-intensive than a Warre hive. It requires moving several heavy hive boxes. Harvesting honey involves removing individual frames, uncapping the cells, and using a honey extractor to separate the honey from the wax. This process can be time-consuming but results in a cleaner honey product and the ability to reuse the wax combs.

Honey Production

Warre Hive

In terms of honey production, the Warre hive produces less honey compared to other hives, such as the Langstroth hive.

With the bees having free range to have brood wherever they see fit, it’s more challenging to get entire boxes of pure honey. The boxes are also smaller than a Langstroth hive reducing the volume of honey stored within.

Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth hive is the most commonly used type of beehive worldwide and is known for honey production. Its design features removable frames that encourage bees to build their comb where the beekeeper needs it built. This organization allows beekeepers to efficiently manage the colony and harvest honey without disturbing the bees.

Another reason for the Langstroth hive’s higher honey production is its vertical expansion. As the colony grows, additional boxes, called supers, are stacked on top of the existing boxes. This vertical growth provides ample space for honey storage, thus leading to increased honey production.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Warre Hive

One of the main advantages of the Warré Hive is its design, which allows bees to operate naturally, as they would in a nest. The management of a Warré beehive is relatively hands-free, requiring less intervention from the beekeeper than other hive types

Unfortunately, it does have some disadvantages. It is difficult to inspect individual bars of honeycomb. It is easier to damage the comb since it doesn’t sit within a frame. There’s also a higher risk of cross-comb that could almost render the colony uninspectable.

Harvesting honey from a Warré hive may also be more challenging, as the process requires cutting the comb, crushing it, and straining the honey, which is less efficient if you have many hives.

Langstroth Hive

The Langstroth Hive allows for easy expansion and customization. It provides higher honey yields, as well as more efficient processes for extraction and inspection.

Some disadvantages of the Langstroth hive include a less natural environment for the bees, with more beekeeper intervention required. 

Langstroth hives cost more than Warre hives because they have more parts.

Choosing the Right Hive

Each type of hive has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Many beekeepers favor the Langstroth hive for its ease of use and greater honey production. In contrast, the Warre hive is considered better for simulating natural beekeeping conditions, potentially benefiting the health and well-being of the bees.

One of the main differences between Warre’s and Langstroth’s hives is their structure. A Warre hive consists of a series of identical, smaller boxes, while a Langstroth hive can contain any combination of the three sizes of super boxes: deeps/brood, mediums, or shallows, although you can choose to have the same-sized boxes. 

Warre hive boxes are added from the bottom, meaning you’ll have some heavy lifting to do at the beginning of the nectar flow. Since Warre hives are harder to manipulate, you won’t need to do the heavy lifting often.

On the other hand, Langstroth supers are added above the brood box. If you have to inspect the brood box, you will need to take all those additional boxes off before you can access that box.

The choice between a Warre hive and a Langstroth hive will largely depend on your personal preferences. The bees adapt to whatever space they occupy. Neither hive type guarantees health or success. That is up to you, the beekeeper.


Both Warre and Langstroth hives have distinctive features that can cater to different needs and preferences in beekeeping. The Langstroth hive offers more flexibility, making it well-suited for commercial operations and those managing multiple hives. It is also easier to split if the colony is growing fast. On the other hand, the Warre hive aims to provide a more natural, low-maintenance environment for the bees.

When considering which type of hive to choose, it’s crucial to assess your personal goals and the level of complexity you’re willing to manage as a beekeeper. For hobbyists, a Langstroth hive may be comparatively expensive, making a Warre hive more appropriate. However, the Langstroth offers the beekeeper more opportunities to learn about bees through inspections.

Ultimately, the choice between a Warre and Langstroth hive boils down to personal preferences and beekeeping objectives. Both designs have their advantages and drawbacks, and the best fit will depend on factors such as hive management style, location, and long-term goals.

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