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Perone FAQs

The bees part of one of Alfredo Cabreras Perones in Curacavi, Chile. Mr. Cabrera designed this
hive with a removable side bar.
Thanks for visiting our English site for Perone hives and PermApiculture!!!!
Perone hives

The Perone or Automatic Hive was designed by Oscar Perone, and aims at managing bees in a way
more closely analogous to their natural behavior. It is favoured by proponents of 'Natural
Beekeeping', who seek to allow more natural bee behaviour and minimise intervention into the hive.
Perone Hives are very large 2m-high vertical top bar hives that remain the same size all year, split
into a bee area underneath, and a bee keepers area above (Mark 1) or side by side (Mark 2). The
total hive volume is large, around 280 litres, which it is proposed allows the bees to develop into a
'super-colony' differing in behaviour to colonies in smaller hives. They are managed so that under
normal circumstances the bee area is never opened, and the bee keepers area is opened only once
per year when any honey is harvested. These hives are managed around bees using their own honey
supplies in winter, not replacing these with sugar syrup.

The limitations for direct inspection of this type of hive and its management raise issues around
disease monitoring, and they are criticised as sources of varroa for other nearby hives, as the large
colony will have many foragers and many standard techniques for managing varroa populations
cannot be practiced. However the hive will also have more bees available for defence, and many
standard treatments for varroa also cause damage to the bees.

1.
2.

What are the similarities between a Perone Hive and Warr?


Whats the difference between a Perone Hive and Warr?
3.

4.
5.

What are the dimensions of the Perone Hive?

The Perone Hive sounds heavy. What can I do to make it easier to lift?

57 cm long comb sounds like it might be really unstable. Isnt comb that big and heavy in
danger of falling off the bars?
6.
7.

Can the bees really fill up all that space?

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.
12.
13.

How do I get bees in the hive?

What do I have to do once the bees are in the hive?

If you dont do any treatments or inspections how are the hives protected from Varroa?

14.

If you never intervene in the brood, wont the combs get dirty and diseased-prone?

15.
16.

Some people say Perone hives only work with Africanized bees. Is this true?
Some people say Perone hives only work in tropical zones. Is this true?
17. How do I harvest the honey?
1. What are the similarities between a Perone Hive and Warr?

At first glance, a Perone Hive may look like a Warr, and indeed they do have some things in
common.
Theyre 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.

2. Whats the difference between a Perone Hive and Warr?


1. SIZE A Perone, particularly is much bigger than a Warr and other mainstream hives as
well. As a result, the population in a Perone is bigger.
2. CHANGES IN SIZE In Warrs, 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.
3. 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.
4. WINTERING Perones dont have a quilt like the Warr, 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. Its important to know that when it comes to bees, their goal isnt to heat the whole
hive, just themselves. Some people though who are trying out Perones in colder climates
are incorporating Warre-like quilts, and thats 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.
3.

What are the dimensions of the Perone 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 havent 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) Well 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.
4.

The Perone Hive sounds heavy. What can I do to make it easier to lift?

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 havent tried it but we see no reason why it wont
work out. Well let you know what we hear from people who are doing this.
5.

57 cm. long comb sounds like it might be really unstable. Does the comb fall?

We do know two people whove 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.
Joe Waggles photo of a feral hive in Pennsylvania, a place where it can get quite cold in the winter.
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 Warrs 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 cant 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 theyve
drawn out comb from every bar in the brood, they will start to fill the space above them the
Beekeepers space.
7. How long does it take for the bees to fill the Perone hive?
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 whove had Prime Swarms fill the brood in 100 days and there are
people whove even had harvests their first year.
If your bees come from a domesticated hive itll take them a little bit longer to return to their roots
so theyll be a bit slower at filling the space. Expect to wait two or three years before you get your
first harvest, but after that youll have a sustainable system established. Dont look to a Perone
hive for a quick dollar or harvest; its a long-term investment, but a good one we think.
8.

What do you need to build a Perone Hive?

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 wont quite be at a
cube yet. Oscar typically fills out the brood with a smaller box to complete the
difference. Obviously though, youre welcome to use whatever dimension of board you feel fit or
have readily available. Just make sure it hasnt been treated with any chemicals!!!!
9.

How do you waterproof the hive?

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 dont go there.
Another eco-freindly alternative is coating the hive with linseed oil.
10.

What if there are gaps in my hive?

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 youd
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 dont have horse manure or dont want to touch
house manure, a REALLY REALLY finely cut straw, 1 part clay, 2 parts fine sand.
11.

How do I get bees in the hive?

There are three options here, and some are more doable than others depending on what conditions
you have.
A.
B.

Prime swarm enters the hive by itself.

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.
Well explore options B and C in further detail below.

A swarm catcher designed to be compatible with the Perone hive.


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. Its 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 didnt 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.

12. What do I have to do once the bees are in the hive?


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 theyre 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.
Dont 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 dont
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.
13.

If you dont do any treatments or inspections how are the hives protected from Varroa?

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 cant 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, wont the combs get dirty and diseased-prone?

No one changes the brood comb in feral hives and theyve survived for years. If the colonys
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 dont
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.
15. Some people say Perone hives only work with Africanized bees. Is this true?
There arent Africanized bees in Chile. The bees people are placing here in their Perones are
European races or hybrids of Europeans and native bees.
16.

Some people say Perone hives only work in tropical zones. Is this true?

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. Whats the difference between a Perone Hive and Warr? D. Wintering.

17. How do I harvest the honey?


In the second or third year of the hive youll have honey in the Beekeepers Part of the
hive. Harvest at night when the bees are down in the brood, so you wont bother the bees. Also
use a red light, since red light is not visible to bees.

You dont 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.