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  1. #1
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    Default Running two queen colonies

    I am going to run some two queen colonies this year as an experiment, probably about 50. I was wondering if anyone here had any experience in a commercial operation doing this. Is it really just a matter of placing queen excluders between the two deeps and running the queens? For those who have done it, what is the procedure you follow? What are the problems associated with running two queen colonies? Was it successful? If not, why? Thanks.

    Jerry

  2. #2
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    Mt holly, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I would enjoy comments on this as well.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    One place I worked did this as standard practise it worked very well for both swarm control and requeening.

    Hives were wintered in double deeps. In spring before swarming time, all the hives with 2 year old queens (yes in those pre varroa days, queens lived 2 years), the queen was found and put in the bottom box. An excluder was put on top and then a honey super, there was no flow yet the super was just incase things got crowded. A division board was put on top of that and the other brood box put on that with basically a nuc in it and this was given a queen cell.

    A few 1 year old queen hives were done also because there would not be 100% mating.

    Around a month later the hives would be combined. The top box above the division board now (hopefully) with a laying queen, was taken off. The honey super was taken off and the excluder taken off. So the hive was now down to the bottom box with the old queen. 6 Sheets of newspaper were put on and then the excluder. Then the top box with the new queen and a choc was put in each front corner on the excluder to raise the second box to make a second entrance. This stopped the nuc suffocating prior to the paper getting chewed out plus these hives later got strong and needed that extra entrance. 2 sheets of paper were put on the second box plus another excluder and the honey box on top of that.

    So the configuration from the bottom, was bottom box with old queen, excluder, second box with new queen, excluder, honey super.

    After this we did not open the brood nest again that season, just more supers were added as needed.

    In fall, honey supers were removed, then the hives wintered down, which involved pulling the excluders and feeding hives that needed it to get required amount of feed for winter. Come spring, the old queen would be gone just the young one was left.

    At the time we gave the queen cells, the hive mats were marked with the strain of the queen and the date. So we could know what queen was in each hive by looking at the mat.

    In that area, there was a sharp flow lasting roughly 2 1/2 months. Once this flow started the bees lost all desire to swarm and focussed on honey collection. So the 2 queening was timed so that leading into swarming time, the hives were split with the unit & cell put on top. This effectively stopped the hive swarming. Then the hives were recombined a few weeks before the flow would start. They just had time to sort themselves out & build a very strong hive in time for the flow to start. So we achieved requeening, a strong hive just in time for the flow, and swarm control.

    The method was perfectly suited for that area, and is still done by some beekeepers in that area. (Canterbury plains, New Zealand).

    However when I moved North around 600 miles closer to the equator, no beekeepers used 2 queening, and I found out why when I tried it. Here winters were warm and the bees came out strong and wanting to swarm. There was some kind of flow for around 7 or more months so the seasons were not well defined. Bees happy to swarm anytime, flow or not. So when I tried 2 queening all I got was super strong hives that were impossible to prevent from swarming.

    So the method can work well in some areas, poorly in others. It is a prime example of how locality can affect management methods, what is superb in one area is lousy in another.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I've done two queen hives a lot of different ways. Frankly I think they are generally too much work to be worth it. However, if I were to attempt it from a commercial point of view, I would just split the brood nest with a queen excluder and an entrance on both sides of the excluder and let things take their natural course. You end up with a queen on both sides usually and so you have a two queen hive. But a lot of the payoff will depend on the timing of things. You may actually get a bigger yield doing a cutdown split at the right time than a two queen hive. If you are not careful on the timing, a two queen hive may end up raising too many bees too late for the harvest as opposed to maximizing the field force at the right time for the harvest.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestwoqueenhive.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  5. #5

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I found a vertical excluder with queens on each side way better than a queen on top of another queen. (Horizontal queen excluder in between. Like Farrar did it. Too much work, plus the bees are confused by the two broodnests on top of each other. Bees want to store honey right above the broodnest, which is why they are confused when finding another broodnest there.) The vertical excluder produces much more honey and less work. A professional beekeeper here uses the vertical excluder and two queens in a Jumbo Dadant with great success.

    Personally I combine the weakest third of my hives into two queen hives in Spring. So about 30 % of my hives are two queen hives. Those two queen hives made the same amount of honey as do the best hives in your yard or slightly above. (up to 120 %) Compared to a two single weak hives, those hives produce the double amount of honey.

    The best two queen configuration is in my eyes the side by side configuration in one broodchamber, divided by a vertical excluder, with shared honey supers.

    Those two queen hives produce large, huge amount of bees. Incredible amounts of bees. I am taking brood for splits off them plus I take bees for shook swarms - several times a year - and still those hives produce more and more bees. Those hives are boiling with bees.

    I got the impression, that bees do get older in those hives. I do not have another explanation for this. The number of brood frames is exactly the same as in normal hives, yet the two queen hives produce much more bees. Longevity is all I can think of that would make the difference.

    Bernhard

  6. #6

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I am working 2queen hives with the Peschetz method after Wolfram Peschetz, Austria. Two normal brood boxes are vertically seperated into two parts each by a bee-tight division board. Each part gets a queen. Every two/three weeks two combs of capped brood of each section are pulled up into a third box right above the queen excluder which functions as a buffer zone. The two combs per section are replaced with wax foundations. Combs are taken only from the upper brood chamber. So basicly you never open up the lower brood box. Just take off the excluder, pull two combs of capped brood and replace with foundation.

    It is not necessary to check for swarm cells by this method since swarming tendencies are very low. If the brood nest is kept tight (I am using 8-frame hives!) and if you keep on pulling brood combs. Either up into the buffer box or later on in the season into splits or mating nucs.

    Having two queens in one hive has the following advantages:

    1) No queen failure issues. If one queen fails there is the second queen that guarantees the survival of the hive.
    2) Both broodnests do warm each other sitting side by side. Same for the winter clusters.
    3) A two queen hive can make better use of early Spring flows. It also continues to go strong throughout the season. Nonstop.
    4) Since there are a lot of bees, there are a lot of opportunities to make splits and swarms.
    5) By removing all the brood varroa can be reduced. Without the colony decreasing in strength. If you remove all the brood in a one queen hive, this can set back the hive for a long time. You do this in a two queen hive and you see little to no effect. So you can take all the brood for example in May or June, and still have a hive that goes strong and is ready for honey production.
    6) Your boxes get more productive.

    Of course one cannot increase honey production much comparing two one-queen hives with a two queen hive. But the production per box used can be increased dramatically.

    I tried to document the situation in a two queen hive at the beginning of May. I start the two queen hives from two small colonies that did not winter well. This is in March usually. It is a bit labour intensive in the beginning, but pays back later in the season.

    Pull and raise two capped broodcombs (short time before the brood emerges) into the buffer hive box. Replace with wax foundations. That is about it. No checking for swarm cells, nothing. Although other hives sometimes have strong swarming tendencies, this could not be found in the two queen hive although it bursts with bees and brood. And pollen. If you stop pulling broodcombs, the swarm tendencies begin. Swarms casted by such two queen hives are giant swarms. Usually both queens swarm at the same time.

    Scheme of the hive setup.

    honey super nr. 2
    honey super nr. 1
    buffer hive box
    queen excluder
    brood box nr. 2
    broodbox nr. 1



    blue = drones
    red = brood (upper: capped, lower: young brood)
    orange = pollen
    yellow = honey
    gray = empty cells, cleaned and made ready for the queen to lay eggs into it


    The upmost honey super, well filled with bees. (It's early Spring and those have been weak hives formerly.)


    Honey super nr. 1, filled with bees and honey.






    Buffer zone.


    The side combs are filled with honey and pollen.


    The combs in the center of the buffer box are interesting: those combs have a nice pollen dome and emtpy cells below. The bees prepare the cells for the queen so she can lay eggs into those cells.




    --- queen excluder ---

    The upper brood box contains one comb with pollen on the outer side. The other combs are capped brood.











  7. #7

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    The brood sections have to be covered when working the hive, so the queens cannot run into the other part of the broodnest. This is the bottom brood box.


    Drone comb on the outer side.


    The two combs in the middle to contain emerging brood.


    The combs next to the division board do contain pollen mostly.


    The original Peschetz-System had three queens per hive, but he has more frames per hive. If you can read German, here is his book as a download (27 MB, PDF):
    http://www.immenfreunde.de/docs/Triomagazin.pdf

    From a practical point of view, I reckon a single Jumbo Dadant broodchamber, vertically divided with a bee tight division board will work best with a side by side queen setup. Less fiddling with frames by the reduced number of frames.

    I don't like the setup where the queens and broodnests sit on top of each other. In my experience the bees get confused, you need multiple entrances and the worst: all those stacking involved. No towers/skyscrapers again for me.




    Bernhard
    Last edited by BernhardHeuvel; 01-04-2015 at 02:19 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
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    chilliwack, bc
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    697

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Out of the 27 years of keeping bees there might of been 4 years where I didn't run double queens. For the most part I've usually had between 5 to 30 on the go. For me they produce much more honey the the regular single queen double broodnest hive.

    Double queens are only a benifit to the operation thats running for honey production although I could see the benifits for bee breeders where a lot of bees are needed. The nice thing about double queen colonies is is that through the proper management, you'll be able to prevent swarming, produce almost twice the honey, and requeen. I don't think that running DQs are more work necessarily if you only need one to every 2 single queen double broodnest hives.

    Where honey production is the goal, location and right timing for the different manipulations on those hives for those locations are crucial. For the most part, my hives are in double queen mode for no more 2 months max just to get the population up to where it needs to be for the main flow when it starts headed by the young queen i left with it from when I initiated the double queen.

    The double queen system has a lot for it for the honey producer and not that it's a lot of work, it's just the timing is crucial for it to work smoothly.
    Will Gruenwald Chilliwack BC

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    and the worst: all those stacking involved. No towers/skyscrapers again for me.
    I love your posts Bernhard you always have such an interesting perspective.

    But complaining about all those stacking? Those stacking is surely the whole object? The more in the stack, the more honey, the more money.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  10. #10

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    A stack of honey supers is OK with me, but not a stack full of brood. Plus I need to move from flow to flow, and I only tried moving those towers one time. I splitted the towers in half, moved them, restacked them when I arrived. Too much work.

    There is much more honey when the queens operate side by side, because the bees are able to stack the incoming honey right above their heads right into the honey supers. A broodnest is a honey pump. By keeping the nest tight, you get a powerful honey pump. Also I found that honey is much drier in smaller hives than in those skyscrapers. I rather harvest a couple of times instead of waiting for the numerous honey supers to get ripe. You get more honey anyway by doing so, because empty supers are put back onto the hives, which triggers the bees for more. Who am I telling this to?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Oh you move them, understandable! The ones I was talking about we didn't move, not once they had honey anyway.

    For us, the configuration with a queen in each box with an excluder between boxes worked fine, the bees did not see it as 2 different brood nests they configured it as one. It's often normal for a hive to have 2 queens & I don't think they understood there was an excluder between. However if it works better for you with an excluder in vertical position then I'm all for doing whatever works, for you.

    For us, each queen got a full sized deep. It was simply not practical to move brood frames around once honey was on top, I'm not superman, and there were four thousand hives.

    We didn't get double the honey from the 2 queeners, we got around an extra deep from them. We didn't take honey off during the season & replace the wets, the flow was too short for that we just piled boxes on and they were not fully capped till end of the season. Where I am now, longer flow, honey can be harvested several times a season, but not in that location.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 01-04-2015 at 07:08 AM.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
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    Clarksville, Arkansas
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    1

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I wish I could read German. I like your post, and your graphic of your two queen setup.
    Regards

    BEESWITHOUTBORDERS

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Great detailed pictures and information. Another example of how any beekeeping task can have so many windows. We have run 2 queen units using a modified version of the system in Dadant's "The Hive and the Honeybee" since 1995. We had a 2 queen board designed and made for us by someone who does wood (and some plastic) work. Nothing fancy, just a queen board with a section of queen excluder in the middle and a lexan slide that can be opened or closed from the entrance to allow or restrict movment between the upper and lower units. This acts as our upper entrance and allows the worker bees to coinhabit both "hives". We combine our units 25-35 or so days after makeup (usually run around 100) the last week of august going into Golden Rod. When we do this we take off a 2 frame split from the upper hive which makes use of the queen. These splits are built up and ready to go into winter with a good late summer, fall flow or can be wintered well in a 5 frame styrafoam nuc as a nuc if buildup conditions are poor due to bloom and weather. Our best year, 1996, we averaged 240lbs/ hive, running 50. Due to the laws of diminishing returns as we run more numbers our average production per unit has decreased to around 175/hive + the value of a split. The management and timing in relation to bloom is important and it is certainly more labor intensive but a fun challenge if you like the idiosyncrasy of beekeeping and very rewarding when it works.

  14. #14
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    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Last season a made up a double queen Tower Hive for drawing out foundation. Two single deeps side by side as the base. In the center on top of the deeps, a queen excluder with a Parker Shim entrance with a deep on top, 4 frame deeps on each side. Worked well with easy access to the bottom deeps without having to do a lot of lifting. If I use it again I would likely screen off the bottom entrances and force the bees to use the upper enterance.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    I like sliding two 5 frame nucs together, queen excluder and supering them up.
    I'll make a bunch of smaller units up through out the season. To catch the flow in the supers instead of the Nuc chambers we will combine two equil strength nucs under an excluder. The combined work force brings in a nice bonus if honey.
    It's as simple as it sounds. HBH is used during merging of the work force.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Bernhard - Your setup looks similar to what Vladimir Ratushny of the Ukraine(Kiev) uses. He divides two deeps vertically with queen excluders, and claimed they built up faster due to the shared heat. I tried one for several years, but was not overly impressed. In my opinion, the care need to not put the top deep on 180 degs off, and to work a "far hive" and "close hive" was not worth the benefits of a more rapid build up. That was back in the early 90's, so maybe I should revisit the methods.

    Crazy Roland

  17. #17
    Join Date
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    frenchbeefarm.com is the site of a commercial outfit in Manitoba. They super double nucs over a queen excluder and run them as honey producers. They winter them as a single story double nuc with a shared food source of fondant over an excluder. I am trying it in a small way this winter and am waiting to see if I have one colony or two left in the divided deep come April. They use the wintered nucs to make up for winter losses and run them as a single colony the second year.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    @Roland: I don't see a significant better buildup, too, but for me it makes good sense to use the weaker queens in those hives to get a better honey production per box.

    Wolfram Peschetz, the author of the book I linked, worked out a plan to control varroa. Which is another aspect to try 2 queen hives. Basicly he cuts drone frames for two times in early Spring, and only in early Spring - to cut back the initial varroa infestation. And he removes the complete brood two times a year. One time in May, another time in July. You cannot do this in single queen hives, since bee population decreases too much, so you loose a lot of honey. Even one brood removal, too early in the year (in May), shrinks the population, so you loose 20-50 % of the honey crop per year. But with a multiple-queen hive you can do this without loosing any honey at all. Because those hives buildup massive populations. (Not by more brood, but I reckon' the bees get older, much older in those hives. Don't know if that is true or how it works. From observation I don't think those massive amounts of bees can be made by brood alone, there must be a longer lifespan, too.)

    When taking the complete brood (with adhering bees, without the queens), he combines 50 frames of brood (Langstroth, shallows) into a new hive, sets those hives into another distant apiary with a nectar flow, and makes shook swarms every 8 days from those until the hives are emptied out/faded, harvesting some honey from those brood towers in the end, too. Shook swarms go into nucs with a ripe queen cell for building up young colonies. He treats only the swarms for varroa, one time when the swarms are made and another time in Autumn. That's it. No winter treatment necessary, no treatment of the production hives, too. Production hives and nucs have to be in different locations, though, to make it work.

    By moving up some of the brood two times (within the hive! So no loss of workforce), and by the first complete brood removal, all swarm tendencies are cut back completely. I have seen that myself. The broodboxes are filled up with capped brood, are boiling with bees, incredible amounts of bees, but they don't swarm. Really interesting. Peschetz didn't do any other swarm control. I didn't, too, and had no swarms. (Marked queens.) Experimentally I did not move up brood, those hives swarmed.

    It may look fiddly and very time consuming, but it is not so bad at all. You get way more combs drawn, you produce way more bees than in a single-queen hives, you make more new hives and you get a decent honey crop with less to no work to control swarming. Plus it helps controlling varroa, and you treat the mites outside the hives and no brood present. Which helps against resistance. So initially you invest more time, but get away with less work and more income.

    I am slowly increasing the number of hives with two queens. Right now I combine the weakest third of all my hives into 2 queen hives, combing the third of all hives that came out of winter a bit weaker. The boxes, that are freed by combining, become supers with drawn comb for the strongest hives. I needed some time to understand, why Peschetz did what he did. Especially some of the details. And I start liking it, because of the results. Note: I use an 8 frame hive and 2 queens. Peschetz used a 10 frame hive and 3 queens per hive.

  19. #19
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    Jul 2011
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    Richardson, TX, USA
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Oh you move them, understandable! The ones I was talking about we didn't move, not once they had honey anyway.

    For us, the configuration with a queen in each box with an excluder between boxes worked fine, the bees did not see it as 2 different brood nests they configured it as one. It's often normal for a hive to have 2 queens & I don't think they understood there was an excluder between. However if it works better for you with an excluder in vertical position then I'm all for doing whatever works, for you.

    For us, each queen got a full sized deep. It was simply not practical to move brood frames around once honey was on top, I'm not superman, and there were four thousand hives.

    We didn't get double the honey from the 2 queeners, we got around an extra deep from them. We didn't take honey off during the season & replace the wets, the flow was too short for that we just piled boxes on and they were not fully capped till end of the season. Where I am now, longer flow, honey can be harvested several times a season, but not in that location.
    Thanks for the info. I think I am going to try this next year with all my nucs that I make up to help them build up faster.

    From your comments here I see the process as:
    1) Make up a strong nuc in a full size deep with a queen cell.
    2) After queen is mated, put the nuc on top of an existing brood box that already has a mated queen with just an excluder between the two boxes and then put an excluder on top of that with a super on top of that.

    And they should coexist ok sharing the same bees and just an excluder between the two of them?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Running two queen colonies

    Yes you have it right.

    However as with most things bees there are many variations, the way I described is just the way it worked for us.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

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