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My Two-Queen Hive Experiment – Part II

- August 1, 2015 - Ray Nabors - (excerpt)

You will be reading this article in the summer. We will finish reporting on this experiment by the end of this season or before Christmas. The writing is going on this spring. The first column was written in April to be submitted for the July issue. This second article is written as the month of June begins. The bees are active and we have news on the two-queen system long hive to report.

The two-queen long hive is building up fast. We will refer to them in future articles as East B and West B. East B has been building faster. I found burr comb on two top bars during this second field inspection since nucleus installation. The installation went as follows:

I used about two frames of foundation with four frames of drawn comb for each nucleus. I added one frame of brood and two frames of honey to each. Remember, these will only hold 9 frames in each of the 3 boxes. One frame of capped brood was removed from strong colonies in the apiary. The brood with adhering bees was put into the two-queen system when new queens arrived. I try to re-queen each colony in the apiary every spring, but this is not always possible. Strong colonies here will always swarm. Making a nucleus with one or two frames of brood helps relieve crowding. New foundation to replace those frames helps control swarming.

I save drawn comb from hives that do not make it through winter. There is always some risk of spreading disease with this practice. However, these days when a colony dies overwinter, it is most likely from diseases vectored by Varroa mites. The combs I save are ones left from a nucleus or new colony started the previous year. These new combs make excellent combs for a nucleus. Save them in the freezer. It is best in my opinion to also add frames of foundation to the mix.

The nucleus colony will have two frames of brood, two frames of honey, two – four frames of foundation, and two – four frames of drawn empty comb in that perfect world. The nucleus colonies in our two-queen long hive each had 1 frame of brood. West B had one frame with mostly honey, but a large patch of brood on one side. The third frame was all honey. East B had two frames of honey, but only one frame of brood. It took East B a little longer to catch up, but both single story hives are filling rapidly.

What about the middle hive body, in never – never land, between the two East B and West B colonies? The bees had mostly ignored the middle. Remember, we had a couple of streaks of burr comb on the top bars of West B. Now comes the advantage of this system. I moved one frame with ½ honey and ½ capped brood from each East B and West B. These were placed into the middle hive body where one frame of foundation was removed from the middle hive to replace the filled comb from each East and West. Adhering bees were taken into the middle chamber of foundation and placed inside the outer most frame of foundation.

These bees, put in the middle, were six frames of foundation apart so fighting was reduced. If this maneuver does not entice both colonies to send reinforcements into the middle chamber, the process will be repeated within a few weeks. In order for this system to work, both colonies must claim the cease fire zone and work together. Supers will be added over the middle box when it is full.

The two-queen long hive had a very useful management solution to swarm deterrence. I used frames of foundation in the middle colony. I did use only beeswax foundation in this two-queen system. Bees accept beeswax foundation better than plastic. The foundation within frames in the middle brood chamber is a very handy source of foundation to replace frames from the brood chambers of the outer two queen- right colonies. This manipulation allows capped brood from East B and West B to be removed regularly (2 weeks more or less) and moved into the middle chamber. This action reduces crowding as adhering bees are moved with brood to the middle chamber.

Think about the advantages of this manipulation. It reduces crowding, but the bees remain …