Building Hives in Italy

During our recent stay in Italy, I had the opportunity to use a friend’s wood shop and build a few unique Warre hives. We were staying in the small town of Gavirate. This small town is in the lakes district of northern Italy in the Lombardy region. It is at the foothills of what is called the “pre-Alps” which are the smaller hills before you officially get into the Italian Alps.

The finished product: tall Warre observation hive
The finished product: tall Warre observation hive

The wood shop was about 13 km away in a small village called Inarzo. I borrowed a bike and commuted to ‘work’ by bike most days. For part of the trip I was able to cycle along a paved path along Lago Varese.

Before I talk hive design, let’s talk hardware. In this part of Italy there are no Lowe’s or Home Depot stores. You have to find a more traditional hardware store that may stock a skeleton keyed lock set that would look fine on a centuries old castle. These shops are called ‘ferramenta.’ While the modern translation is ‘hardware,’ it is an interesting word as the first part, ferra, comes from the word ferrous for iron. The word origin for ferramenta is ironmonger’s shop.

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Italian ferramenta (hardware store)

I visited several hardware stores in the nearby town of Varese, and also went on a day trip to Milan, where I found two more interesting ferramentas to visit and finally had a good selection of nails, screws and hinges for the hives.

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A well stocked ferramenta
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New (old) hardware at the ferramenta
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Dadant hives for sale at the farm supply store

The hives I built are a rather unique design. They are jumbo Warre observation hives. Here are a few details:

  • There is one large chamber that is 45 liters in volume with 8 top bars
  • There is one large plexiglass window with a hinged wooden door
  • It has a standard Warre roof and has a miniature honey super built in
  • This roof based honey super has 4 small bars, and is about 3 liters in volume
  • Moveable divider to either keep bees out of, or give them access to, the miniature honey super
  • The base is a unique design with a slatted bottom board and a deep well bottom with a removable board to check for mites
  • It has a disc entrance that was purchased locally at a place that sold primarily farm supplies and had some Dadant equipment
  • The roughsawn wood for the hives was purchased from a local sawmill.
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This tall Warre has one large window!
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It also has a slatted bottom rack
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Here’s the roof detail with a mini honey super

The beehives will be painted by their new owners and wait until next spring to be populated by swarms. I’ll stay in touch with my Italian friends to hear how the bees like their new homes.

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The hives and their new owners