Productivity trials for the combination queen rearing nucleus and comb honey hive

Final Report for FNE05-549

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2005: $4,559.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
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Project Information


During the 2008 growing season, I was able start 27 clusters of bees on deep frames and 28
clusters on shallow frames suited for use in the queen machine. So far, clusters on the deep
frames have exhibited a faster rate of growth and a better survival rate than clusters on the
shallow frames.
During 2009, I continued my experiments but focused my efforts on Combination Hives with
deep frames. Though I had always thought that the number of frames per compartment would
have a significant influence on the rate of growth of the Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and
Comb Honey Hive, I came to the conclusion that this was wrong. The amount of space available
for the production of brood is really more important than the spacing of frames. Utilizing this
knowledge, I was able to finalize the design of the combination hive. When it is not used for
queen production, the combination hive will be converted from 6 compartments to two
compartments and additional two compartment hive bodies will be stacked above the bottom hive
body. Deep hive bodies will be used for brood chambers while shallow hive bodies will be used
for honey production.

Project Objectives:

Our goal is to construct and test a special purpose beehive designed for raising queens in the
Spring and early Summer and producing comb honey during the Summer. This hive is named the
Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb Honey Hive. Funding was to be used to build
and field test a total of twenty beehives. 10 hives would utilize 9 1/8 inch by 7 inch frames while
the other would utilize shallower 6 V4 inch by 7 inch frames. Both hives were to be tested for
production, overwintering and rate of growth. Income from this hive was to be compared to that
generated by the standard Langstroth hive and another new hive, the Two Colony Hive. Clusters
of bees would be tested on frames arranged in groups of 5,6, and 7 frames to determine whether
the number of frames would affect the rate of growth.


Research results and discussion:

Johnston’ Bee Farm is a sideline operation of 180 beehives. Approximately 90 of these hives are
standard Langstroth hives and 70 are two colony hives, a design originated by the farm owner,
and 17 are Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb Honey Hives, the subject of this
experiment. In 2009, we grossed approximately $12,000 from the sale ofnucs, brood, and
queens, an increase over the $5,000 earned in 2008.
The farm built a 20 foot x 24 foot warehouse for woodworking and honey extracting in 2001. A
substantial addition was closed in as of late 2007. During 2008, two lofts were constructed that
provide additional storage for jars and lumber. In 2009, insulation and interior walls and heat
were added to the original 20′ x 24′ portion of the warehouse. Lights, electrical outlets, and stairs
were added to the lower part of the warehouse. In 2009, a Farmland Viability Grant from the New York State Department of Ag and Markets
was completed. This grant funded the writing of a Farmland Viability Plan (business plan) and
the establishment of a web site for our bee business. The business plan was completed by Cornell
Cooperative Extension’s Farmnet Program in 2007. The web site, was completed in January 2009.
A new honey label has been developed for our operation. It can be viewed in its latest form on
the web site. We had 5,000 of these labels printed by Creative Labels of Vermont in 2009. We
will probably print a different version of the same label to fit honey bears in 2010.
Though the recipient of this grant, Michael Johnston, had hoped to retire from his full time job at
Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District during 2009, it didn’t happen. Working a
full time job in addition to the bees has had everything to do why I’ve been so slow working on
these SARE grants.

Research conclusions:

2008 Results:
After a summer of trying to start deep and shallow queen machines, we had 27 clusters of bees on
deep frames and 28 clusters of bees on shallow frames that had had a successfully mated laying
queen. Many of these clusters were not strong enough to make it through the winter though it is
expected that enough will survive to continue the experiment. In comparing the clusters on deep
frames with the clusters on shallow frames, the deep queen machines have had a great deal more
success in surviving and have lasted longer. By December 14, twenty two of the deep clusters
were still alive while 3 had died due to starvation, weakness, and robbing while 2 clusters did not
last because the bees had gotten across the divider board (poor woodworking by the author).
Also by December 14, twelve of the shallow clusters were still alive, 14 had died due to
starvation, weakness, and robbing, while two did not last because of poor woodworking.
In one case, by happenstance, some deep frames were placed above a queen that was already
producing brood on shallow frames. A few weeks later, when the author returned to the hive, it
was found that the queen had abandoned the shallow frames and was producing brood on the
deep frames only. With this one unplanned case, we can infer that this queen thought that the
deep frames were a better idea as well. This one case does provide hope that perhaps the bees
will more naturally store honey in the shallow frames and produce brood on the deep frames,
reducing the need for the use of queen excluders.
The results so far indicate that the deep frames are better suited for the brood chambers of the
queen machine than shallow frames. Certainly, the overwintering survival rate is better with the
deep frames than the shallow frames. The deep hives also grew faster than the shallow hives.
This is indicated by the fact that 6 of 8 deep hives were strong enough by August to require a
second hive body while 2 of9 shallow hives had required a second story. Both types of hives had
been started together in equal numbers over the course of the summer.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

In 2009, an article on the Two Colony Hive appeared in NYS SARE Farmer Grant Profiles by
NY SARE Outreach and the Cornell Small Farms Program. This article does briefly mention the
queen machine. I had asked the Outreach Coordinator, Violet Stone, if we could do a follow-up
article on the queen machine but she was not in favor of it at that time. There is some
information on the queen machine in my new web site.
An article about the 2009 Specialty Crop grant was submitted to the American Bee Journal in
December of2009. This was a long article because it explained how the grant will be applied and
also explained the advantages of the two specialized beehives that I will be utilizing.
Joe Graham, ABJ Editor, asked that I shorten the article and focus on the Specialty Crop grant.
At this time, I plan on writing two articles. The second article will focus on my specialized
equipment and will be submitted to Bee Culture magazine.

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

Technical Adviser Maryanne Frazier, Penn State – Maryanne is still the technical adviser for this
project. We will send her a copy of this final report.

Future Recommendations

During this project, I was not able to test the Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb
Honey Hive’s potential for honey production.
In 2003 as part of a previous SARE grant, I ran two Two Colony Hives for honey
production. When both hives grew to almost 20 frames of brood in late May, I stole
brood from them to use in other parts of my operation. This was done before any swarm
cells had formed. A zinc excluder was placed over the two deep brood nest and I
“bottom supered” during the honey flow. I pulled honey a number of times and managed
to keep these hives supplied with enough empty supers so that swarming was never a
problem. Honey production was measured by weighing honey supers before and after
extracting. One hive yielded 370 pounds of honey and wax while the other hive yielded
344 pounds. This is pretty good considering that the world record for honey production
is 405 pounds of honey in one year. The average honey production per hive in New York
State is 70 lbs. These two hives demonstrated greater than a 400% increase in production
even after deducting the weight of beeswax that was also produced.
When run for honey production, the Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb
Honey Hive should be very similar to the Two Colony Hive. Both hives have two
separate colonies of bees. The Combination Hive will have 12 smaller frames instead of
5 standard frames in each compartment. The Combination Hive will have 90.4% of the
brood space available to a Two Colony Hive. Though this hive should not be as
productive as a Two Colony Hive, it still has very great potential for honey production.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.