It is late fall at this writing. We are already shopping for Christmas and Thanksgiving has arrived. It is a new year and as always we beekeepers are optimistic about the coming prospects of honey production. Maybe you also produce propolis, queens, nucleus colonies or beeswax and candles. We must have hive products to make our products including honey, but also cosmetics and other products. For me the object of optimism remains comb honey. I am in the shop more than the bees these days. Winter is the time for repairing and building bee equipment. Now it is time for me to redesign that two-queen hive I had last season.
Many of you will wonder what happened to the bees in that other two-queen system. It is simple, I used the bees to increase or combine with other colonies in the apiary that were showing signs of weakness. The long hive is no longer a bee hive, but may become a recycled planter box with a glass top for early spring or winter vegetables. I cannot say it did not work, the bees did fine but the beekeeper came up short of a crop. There is no way I know of to economically keep a horizontal three-hive body colony of bees. It is too much space.
It is probably a good idea to recall why anyone would want a two-queen system. The first consideration is increased
- A two-queen system can produce as much honey as three or more single colonies.
- The beekeeper gets one stack of supers to work with on two colonies.
- The two-queen systems take up less room in the apiary.
- Adjacent brood chambers could overwinter better by sharing heat.
- Overall production per apiary should increase.
- Urban beekeeping and two-queen systems would likely be a good match.
- Working two-queen colonies requires more management than single colonies.
- Lost mobility, as two-queen colonies are difficult to move.
- You cannot lift a two-queen colony without mechanical help.
- Working two colonies at the same time will anger twice as many bees.
- Equipment for two-queen systems is not standard. You must make your own or modify standard equipment to adapt for dual queen colonies.
Hobby beekeepers and sideline beekeepers who do not move their bees are both good candidates for using a two-queen system.
If you were following along last season, you remember that three hive bodies were used to make a single long hive with brood boxes on both ends and a common hive body between them with room for honey storage. The stored honey became a problem. The two colonies stopped production when the center hive body was full and one super of comb honey was made on top. The solution is to remove the center hive body.
Since only two hive bodies are needed for the brood chamber, I decided to adapt two standard 10-frame hive bodies. These two brood chambers were attached together using 1.5 inch deck screws. I used 6 screws, 3 along the top and 3 along the bottom. A single queen excluder will cover half of each brood chamber. The remaining frames will be open at the top. This two-queen system will require two inner covers. These must be designed. Make sure the top is square to accommodate the excluder without gaps.
Covering this colony will be …