In September 2016 I completed the modification of a Flow super (10 frame / 7 Flow frame) to fit the Technoset hive system and began preparation for the upcoming season.
Wanting to try something different with the hive, I read a collection of historical articles/text on configuring for dual/two queen hives.
The basic concept of a two-queen hive is to run multiple colonies side by side, sharing honey supers / stores but keeping the queens completely separate (ie. they do not share the same space). The workers do share common space, generally in the supers where the honey will be stored by both colonies.
There are several basic approaches to running two queen configurations with Langstroth hives, each with their own advantages/disadvantages. The three basic methods that I have seen discussed and I investigated are (not a complete list):
1. Brood box above and below
Standard brood box configuration with a queen excluder and super on top. On top of the super, an additional queen excluder is added and then a second brood box with the second queen is added. The top brood box also requires an entrance added at the top of the hive to allow free passage for drones.
Issues with this approach:
- The upper brood box will trap drones if it does not have a top entrance added
- Bees can be reluctant to store honey below the brood, and you may find the top box fills stored honey from the top of frames reducing laying space rather than storing in the super below
- Inspection and removal of the super and lower brood box can be complicated as it involves removing the top colony
**2. Divided brood box**
The divided brood box is, as the name suggests, a standard brood box with a division board inserted in the middle to split the brood box evenly into two colonies. Above this division board a standard queen excluder is installed and a super is installed as would normally be configured. To an onlooker, this hive may appear as a standard single queen colony.
Issues with this approach:
- The resulting colonies are smaller than other configurations. A 10 frame hive body should be used as a minimum to provide 2 x 5 frame colonies
- Depending on hive configuration, division board may encroach on frame space reducing number of available frames
- Separating entrances can be difficult so alternate entrance configuration (side entrance) may be required
- Special care needs to be taken when lifting the queen excluder (ie. covering one half of the hive)
3. Multiple brood box
The more complex configuration involves inserting two full brood boxes under a single super (a pyramid style configuration). The brood boxes are placed side by side with the outer half of each box covered with a half width lid. In the central section above the brood boxes a standard queen excluder and super is installed. The gap on either side of the super above the brood boxes can be reduced if two 8 frame brood boxes are used with a 10 frame super and excluder.
Issues with this approach:
- Custom equipment needs to be created, namely the two half width lid/covers for the brood box
- The hive loses it’s portability as it is difficult to relocate the three boxes
- Special care needs to be taken when lifting the queen excluder, ensuring one colony is always covered
After careful consideration I decided to use option **2.** which was inserting a dividing board in a 10 frame super and maintaining two 5 frame colonies in the same brood box. This choice was made as the Technoset system provides the ability to split a standard colony 'out of the box' using a division board.
Each box has multiple sets of rails on the side wall. The set of rails below is in the centre and splits the hive into two 5 frame colonies.
With the division board in place.
To resolve the issue of entrances being too close, entrances covers of alternate colours are installed and they each face different sides of the hive.
The only modification required to the standard equipment was the queen excluder. The excluder had to be cut to allow the division board through the centre. You can see on close inspection that the cut in the excluder sits on a ridge of the division board and maintains the integrity of the excluder.
Adding the colonies
There are several ways to approach adding the colonies such as splitting or installing multiple nucs or packages. The approach I chose was to add two colonies from swarms (both swarmed from the same hive). To add the colonies to the brood box, top feeders were added to provide separate covers so each colony could be added independently.
After the both swarms were added to the brood box, it was transported to its final location. Both colonies were then fed sugar to assist in the initial comb building. No queen excluder or super is installed at this stage.
Both colonies can be seen here using different entrances in the hive the next day
After roughly two weeks, each colony was inspected to confirm the comb was drawn and the queens could be located
Introducing the colonies
The process used for introducing the colonies was essentially the same as merging a swarm/colony into another using newspaper. As discussed elsewhere, I added an Ideal super to the hive to provide winter storage for the colonies when the Flow super is removed. This Ideal super was initially installed and used as the ‘mixer’ above the excluder before the Flow super was added.
The newspaper was folded in half and placed over one side of brood box. The other side of the brood box had free/full access to the super.
Above the excluder, a full Ideal super of new frames with wax foundation was added.
A week later the bees can be seen mixing in the Ideal super. At this stage the remaining newspaper was removed.
With no feeding since the super was installed, the bees were quick to draw out the Ideal foundation
Adding The Flow Super
With both colonies happily working together, and storing honey in the Ideal super, the only remaining step was to install the Flow super.
Before adding the super, the Flow frames were prepared with wax using the ‘surfboard’ method described on this site
The Flow super was then installed above the Ideal super
The bees were quick to move into the Flow super to clean up the excess wax
A week later the activity in the Flow super had increased significantly
Looking down into the Flow super you can see the top of the Ideal frames in the super below
Even with the effort invested above, the result wasn’t a full Flow hive (although some honey was extracted from overflowing Ideal frames) but the hive did perform extremely well.
Although the Ideal frames were filled quickly, the Flow frames took a lot longer. At the end of the season the Flow frames were approximately 20% full (this is a 7 frame, not 6 frame Flow super) but very little of the honey was capped.
The Flow frames were frozen over winter and have now been added back on the hive for the next season.
As for running two queen setups, I can safely say I will be limiting this experiment to this single hive for the foreseeable future