This year I have been conducting two experiments. One is comparing two versus three brood chamber hives. The second is using two queens to promote quick new hive buildup. Sometimes I just have to do it myself .
I became interested in three (3) brood chamber hives after reading a University of Minnesota bee pamphlet (Beekeeping in Northern Climates) several years ago. Consequently I have been running a number of three brood chamber hives. Although we are at approximately the same latitude as southern Minnesota, we are in a milder winter climate according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone maps. Roughly 5 degrees F warmer on average. My data from last winter showed no difference in the survival rates of two versus three brood chamber hives. I have also noticed that the bees are filling the third brood chamber primarily with honey. The third brood chamber does not appear to promote raising of additional brood. Two brood chambers provide the queen with enough laying space. In most hives there was only honey in the third brood chamber; only a few had brood in the lower quarter of the deep frame. At mid-July most of my three brood chamber hives have only just begun putting honey into the supers. If the third brood chamber doesn’t result in more bees, more honey and better winter survival I can see no advantage to this configuration. In fact, the honey heavy 3rd brood chamber actually discourages me from conducting weekly brood chamber inspections. Who wants to pick up and move that heavy 90 pound box.
I have been raising small quantities of queens for a couple of years. This year I actually have more queens than I have a need for. I had heard that 2 queen hives can increase the overall hive efficiency and result in more honey. I was using the some of the surplus queens to start up new hives. New hives getting started after mid-June are always in a race to build up the hive enough to survive the coming winter. I thought why not use a second queen in some of these start-up hives to promote a faster build up and increase the probability of winter survival. So I have set up several two brood chamber/two queen hives. One queen with several frames of bees, brood and honey are put in the lower chamber. The two chambers are separated by two (2) queen excluders to ensure the queens cannot interact; ie fight or kill each other. In the second brood chamber goes another queen with several frames of bees, brood and honey. I prop open the outer cover to give the bees in the upper chamber a way to exit the hive in case they don’t want to run the gauntlet of the excluders and bees in the lower chamber. So far, so good. The queens are both alive and laying. I can always remove the second queen at any time to fix another hive that has queen issues or to help out another beekeeper in need of a queen. Come September I will need to remove one of the queens and remove the double excluders. This fall I will make it a point to compare the strength of the two queen start-up hives to several other start-up hives.
Bottom to top: Bottom board, lower brood chamber, double excluder, upper chamber, inner cover, propped up outer cover