Beverly Bees

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Stan adding newspaper over first hive to prepare to merge my hives.
Stan adding newspaper over first hive to prepare to merge my hives.

A Hive With Two Queens

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A hive by any other name would smell as sweet.

As a brand new beekeeper, I’ve had a difficult first year.  If it wasn’t for the support of my wonderful bee mentor, the bee master Stan, and my brand new bee buddies from bee school, I would not have made it this far with my hive.  I am very grateful for all their help and advice.  Thank you!

The bad luck started a few weeks after installation when my marked queen was superceded and killed off. Next, my bees decided they didn’t like their home anymore and swarmed away with their new queen. With great luck and determination, I caught the swarm and was able to rehive it. Unfortunately, the population of the swarm hive slowly dwindled.  Many bees ended up returning to the original hive (why they swarmed in the first place only to return back home beats me).  What was left was a very small population of bees in the swarm hive, one that was not strong enough to make it on their own.

The original hive has a larger population, but it’s still too small due to the death of my queen and lack of eggs for an extended period of time.  I’ve been patiently waiting through many broodless weeks, for both queens (the one from the original hive and the one from the swarm hive) to start laying eggs.  Finally, at last, three to four weeks later there are eggs and larvae in both hives. Woo Hoo!

Stan thought the best way to ramp up my bee population, and to get them to finish drawing out all the frames in the brood box, was to set up a two queen system.  Yesterday he came over to help me merge my two hives together, making one hive containing two queens.  Although he has never tried this with a package before, we are both hoping this new setup will save my bees and allow them to survive the harsh New England winter.

 

Stan adds newspaper over the first hive in preparation to merge my hives together.

The first thing Stan did was remove the covers of the original hive and replace them with newspaper.

Queen Excluder Next

The first queen excluder goes next.

He then placed a queen excluder on top of the paper and used my hive tool to cut between 6 and 8 small slits in the paper.

Next we put on the honey super and second queen excluder.

Next, on went the honey super filled with foundation.  Another queen excluder was placed on top of that.

The hive that swarmed goes on top.

Lastly, the hive that swarmed was put on top, followed by the inner and outer covers.

Last go the inner and outer covers.

The idea is that the bees from both hives will eat through the newspaper over the next day or so.  While this is happening, the pheromone smell of both queens will slowly permeate both hives.  This mixed pheromone is the one the bees will adjust to, giving them allegiance not to one but two queens.  The double queen excluders, with the honey super between them, keep the queens from being able to kill each other.  This setup also keeps the queens laying eggs in their own separate areas of the hive.  The worker bees will be able to pass through the excluders and the honey super entering both hives as they please.

The most important reason to do this is to even out the population of nurse bees. The queen that swarmed did not have enough nurse bees left to take care of her brood.   Once the bees have allegiance to both queens, nurse bees from the original hive will move through the excluders to the new hive and help take care of the larvae of the swarm queen.  This will allow her to lay more eggs, which in turn, will build up my bee population twice as fast as if I only had a one queen hive.  Now my beehive looks very impressive (unless you knew what is really inside it).

 

My two queen hive.

After the swarm hive was moved, the field bees were very confused and kept flying around in circles, landing on the bottom board where their hive used to be.   With the pollen and nectar load they are carrying, they should easily be accepted back into the original hive.

 

“Where did our hive go?” Ask the field bees.

Stan points out a field bee, loaded with pollen, trying to enter a foreign hive.

Stan and I watched the field bees from the swarm hive.  After several minutes, a few of them tepidly tried to enter the original hive.  The field bees belonging to the original hive would land confidently on the bottom board and enter right inside.  But the field bees from the swarm hive would land far from the entrance and walk timidly into this new hive, turn around, fly back to where their old hive used to be, then try again to enter the new hive.  By dusk there were no more bees flying around the bottom board of the swarm hive.  I hope they all found a way inside.

A field bee trying to enter a different hive.

The bees should chew through the paper over the next day or two.  In a few days the hive will be okay to check.  Keep your fingers crossed for my bees!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. First Inspection Of The Two Queen Hive System
  2. Inspecting The Two Queen Hive System
  3. Off With Her Head, Well Actually, Her Butt (Merging the Two Queen Hive System)
  4. I Want Candy! So Let’s Make A Candyboard For Winter Feeding
  5. Ahhh Mites! Treating For Varroa Destructor

Author: Anita Deeley at BeverlyBees.com

Anita Deeley is a biologist and state bee inspector who runs between 30-50 treatment free hives. She is also the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.

14 Comments

  1. So are the frames on the honey super already drawn out or do the bees still need to work on them?

    • Hi Suzanne,
      They have to draw them out. They have the first deep drawn out already. The second deep needs to be drawn out along with the honey super. The 3rd deep only has 3 frames partially drawn, so they need to finish that too. They have a lot of work to do!

  2. Although a challenge, it seems a blessing to have a swarm, be able to catch it then run two queens, then merge; as you’ve done a lot more than the average first year beekeeper. Pretty exciting.

  3. So now – a year later – did you end up splitting the hives again? Or merge them?

    • Hi Rachel, I merged the two hives together at the end of the summer last year. You can read about it here – http://www.beverlybees.com/off-with-her-head-well-actually-her-butt/. If I had to do it again I think I would have tried to overwinter the top hive in a nuc instead. As it turned out the winter was quite mild and both hives would have probably been fine. If only we knew then.

      • I am in the same place that you were a year ago. We got 2 hives in April. One dwindled and died – non-laying queen – or weak-laying, I am not sure. Then we were given a swarm by NYC Police Dept bee expert (!) beginning of June.

        The swarm quickly drew out 10 frames – in about 10 days – but then stopped making new comb. They have nicely filled up one super, but did not expand beyond that point.

        Our original hive has drawn out comb 2 supers – but then also stopped expanding. I think we might have had a big dearth, for 4-6 weeks June-July – and did not realize it.

        We certainly have not gotten even one jar of honey.

        2 weeks ago, we checked, and realized that both hives have almost no honey stored up – corners of the brood nest frames, and that’s about it. After reading a bunch of stuff, we decided to start feeding more concentrated sugar syrup, as well as pollen patties (that I made from pollen, purchased from Dadant (at great expense,) mushed with sugar water), hoping they would build up some stores for the winter – but I was also wondering if we should dispatch the swarm queen, and merge the two hives, for the winter.

        I wish we could know, in advance, what the weather will be this winter!

        Rachel

        • Rachel,

          I would try to overwinter it as one deep. This year I am overwintering bees in nucs, two deeps and three deeps but a one deep is a viable hive to overwinter. I know many beekeepers who have successfully overwintered beehives of all different sizes. Kirk Webster overwinters tiny mating nucs on top of 2 deep hives and told me he thinks of them as Bonsai bees. They should look the same as a regular hive with honey on top and the sides but in miniature. Overwintering both also gives you a higher chance that at least one hive will survive the winter. Swarm queens are usually genetics you want to keep because the bees were strong enough to swarm and may be survivor bees. I would feed them 2:1 until they have 4 frames of honey (at least two on each side) and honey on the top of the frames in the middle with room for brood on the bottom of the frames. Mike Palmer said you need to feed them all at once. If they need 5 gallons of honey for the winter you feed them 5 gallons of sugar syrup 2:1 at one time. The large amount at once will force them to store it instead of raise brood with it. You can also make a candyboard and put it on the hive when you close it up for winter (Nov). I used a candyboard last year (although I’m not sure if I needed it) but others who have used them had great success with them and a higher bee survival rate. You can read about how to make one here – http://www.beverlybees.com/i-want-candy-so-lets-make-a-candyboard-for-winter-feeding/. You can also see my bees on it and see what was left at the end of the year by clicking on posts in the candyboard category here – http://www.beverlybees.com/category/overwintering-honey-bees/making-a-candy-board/ I hope that helps. Let me know what happens with your bees.

  4. Hello,
    What do you think about this idea : If over the hive I put a queen excluder and a super and in that super I put a queen cell prepared to get it out. What will happens? Both qeens will put eggs?

    Thank you

    • Welcome Daniel! That is not a good idea because the queens will be able to sting each other through the queen excluder. You need to have a space in between TWO excluders. Your setup would be something like the bottom hive bodies, an excluder, a super, another excluder, then the hive with the second queen on top. You can also use a double screen board to separate the hives, such as a snelgrove board, that has space in between the two screens, so the bees cannot touch each other.

  5. Anita,
    Coming out of the winter in N.C. with my first hive. When I had the chance to order a spring queen, she asked me how many? Bought 2. I thought, if one is killed off, I still have the insurance. Used mess cages.., both queen acceptance in 2 days..!!

    After several days, 80% of the field bees joined the main box. Two weeks have past resulting with two extremely small colonies.. (Both small colonies have several existing drawn combs now with some capped brood 3 weeks before main honey flow..)

    Question: if I threw a towel over the strongest hive late in the day, would the remaining field bees do well in finding new homes..?

    Overall, amazed on how adaptive this buggers are!!
    RH

  6. Is it possible for two hives to merge on their own? I have to hive one weak the other strong
    The weak when recently had a queen death and there were few bees left. While I was tending to my bees the weaker colony just took everything and left, and went into the stronger hive
    It was not a swarm, a robbing, or an attack they just acted like they were part of the other colony. And there was no bees attacking each other or bees that died of being stung or bit
    Is this possible?

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