Two-Queen System within a Colony of Honeybees to Increase Honey Production, Protect Hive Health and Increase Revenues

Project Overview

FNC05-558
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Animal Production: general animal production

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    We own and operate 200 colonies of Honey Bees. We produce and sell liquid and creamed honey to our local customers. Our local sales have grown from 400 lbs per year to 15000 lbs per year. We practiced different “wintering methods” to better sustain colonies of bees through long Northern winters. We also started feeding more protein and carbohydrates (sugar syrup) in the fall to give the bees an advantage through very mild winters where they consume food stores.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION GOALS
    I discussed my plans with the farmers and neighbors interested in the well being of our colonies of bees, explaining that much stronger and vigorous beehives performed better throughout the 12 month period. They all felt research was the best investment. I knew I would need new queens, corn syrup for food to support Brood rearing (raising young honeybees), and more bee equipment for storing the much increased honey harvest. Through much reading on building strong colonies, I decided the “2nd Queen” placed above a screened divided separator operated for 4 weeks allowed me to develop colonies of bees three times stronger than any hive operating with “One Queen” to carry the colony through the 12 month period, plus I could remove the older Queen below the screened separator and use the new queen to head up the colony after the beehives became very strong. This gives me a new queen in the beehives every year plus a great increase in honey yield. My goal was to show the beekeepers in our area and Bee Clubs that their colonies were not producing up to their potential by yielding 180 to 300 lbs of surplus honey more than they were normally harvesting into the 50-60 pound state average range. Plus, these “2-Queen” colonies built super strong colonies to allow them to winter better and fight off pests to bee colonies, called Varroa Mites, that suck blood from adult bees causing them to become anemic and killing bee brood.

    PROCESS

    Each fall, I feed protein patties and corn syrup to bring the beehives up to an average weight of 180 pounds. I found extra protein fed in early August supplies body fat to sustain the young bees through winter, and they are ready to take on the duty of nurse bees to feed larvae in the brood area in March when brood rearing begins. In late April, my orders of new queens arrived. I take along 200 double screen dividers with entrances to the bees in the “2-Queen” unit I make up to go out and forage. I place five frames of brood and bees in a separate bee box above the screened dividers (which allow a warm flow of air to rise up into the new “2-Queen” unit. The older queen stays below the double screen and carries on her duties of egg laying and building up the larvae unit. After 35 days, the “2-Queen” unit is very strong covering 10 frames with brood and bees instead of 5 frames as they started out. Now, I combine the 2 units of bees giving me a population of 75,000 to 80,000 bees to produce a large crop of honey. PEOPLE The farmers involved who allowed me to use up to 2,000 square feet of land for me to operate my beehives at are the following names who favored and made possible this project: 1. John and Carol Losey 2. John and Ann Maier 3. Howard and Helen Keys 4. James Milroy 5. Kenneth Fehr (Amish) 6. Robert McPherson 7. John W. Wagler (Amish) My thanks go out to Mrs. Tammy Dobbs, Ohio State University Extension agent for Logan County, Bellefontaine, OH 43311.

    RESULTS
    As expected, very positive and enlightening results came about as if it was intended to happen. A Global Positioning System (GPS) can only compare to the accuracy of the plans I used and I am passing to all interested Beekeepers who want to move forward with the vocation of beekeeping. Yes, as expected, many self-sustaining practices came about for the good of the 200 colonies of bees we operate that proved beneficial to yearly management of our beehives. The colonies became 50% stronger with the addition of the new second queen we put to work in the top portion of each bee hives for a period of 30-45 days. Our bee population easily went from around 45,000 (or 13 pounds of bees) right up to 75,000 to 80,000 bees per hive in our area (or 22 pounds of bees). Most beekeepers in our area were not aware of this potential hive strength that comes about with this “2-Queen” system that pays large dividends, not only in three to four times the honey yield they are not used to harvesting, but the colonies are many times easier to manage. For pollination purposes, one of the strong “2-Queen” colonies will do more beneficial pollinating than three smaller hives operated with one queen and a population of an average 35,000 bees per hive. WHY?? Because I have a greater ratio of field bees (pollinators) to nurse, the bees needed to stay in the nursery (brood area) of the hives to care for the baby bees. Therefore, I get maximum ability from the large colonies to be able to pollinate a greater area thus saving the orchard or vegetable grower money in rental fees by renting less colonies, and the stronger colonies do a better job of cross-pollinating the farmers’ crops resulting in a more perfect seed set in the vegetables and fruits, thus a more perfect product comes about from our bees. For a state average of 60 lbs per colony [of honey] at $2.00 per pound, beekeepers could gross $120 per hive. For our large “2-Queen” colonies with average honey production in average years of 180 to 240 pounds of honey at $2.00 per pound for honey, we see $360 to $480 per colony of bees. With the cost of an extra $20 queen and $15 for feed nutrition, we spend about $35 more per hive with a greater net gain. As an example of educational outcome, Kendall Smucker, a new beekeeper, performed the “2-Queen” project on half of his bee hives. As soon as he finished extracting his honey crop, I got a call and was told by Kendall this was the first time he ever had his beehives produce 160 pounds and he only wished he had performed this on all of his bee hives. The following year, he went totally with this system and he won’t go back to the One-queen system which he feels is a waste of his abilities. A commercial beekeeper in Hemlock, MI operated 1200 colonies with single queens. He too went to the “2-Queen” system and reduced his colonies down to 600 colonies because of trying to get help. His 600 colonies used all the surplus honey boxes (supers) that he had used on his 1200 colonies because of the “2-Queen” system. He is locked into this idea. Our results from this project were even greater than I ever expected and I won’t change anything in the future. After one or two years of this “2-Queen” operation, you become professional because of the easy transition to this method.

    DISCUSSION
    With the right understanding of honey bee biology, along with self-motivation, you can overcome any doubt barrier when great results come about. I had to perform this on my own with knowledge I’ve learned over 35 years of keeping bees along with 27 years of bee inspections for the State of Ohio. This pretty much took the edge off of my doubt of the unknown. The advantage is our bottom financial line went strongly into the black. We find “absolutely” no disadvantage to a system that will always be a profit maker and is sustainable as this project.

    PROJECT IMPACTS
    We and other beekeepers can operate fewer bee hives and create more money to cover expenses with less labor. Our stronger colonies are pollinating better on soybeans (which are self fertile as I’m told) but a farmer in Champaign County, after bees were placed on his farm, had an increase of 14% to 17% soybean yield. This farmer keeps great records. I’m told by an extension agent soybeans are self-fertile and don’t need pollination; however, our bees do not know this, so upon visiting the purple and white soybean bloom, they increase the bean yield and we gather more honey when we are near the soybean fields, thus helping our honey yield.

    OUTREACH
    This year (2012), a power show in Columbus was held and our bee club was there to encourage farmers to allow us to use perhaps one-fourth acre to plant bee pasture for our colonies. Also, we attended Ohio Farm Science Review and had about 2,000 people visit our honeybee information booth which had 8 people on hand to answer questions. More people than ever, including city folks, are concerned about the fate of our bees if they don’t turn around. The manager of the Farm Science Review helped in any way we needed and at the end of the three-day event, he came to us and requested we come back in late September 2012. They requested that we set up two outreach tents located in the conservation areas to give out publications. We also will have great TV coverage during the three-day Farm Science Review. PROGRAM EVALUATION Is there anything you would like to see changed? No, this has been a good project for agriculture purposes.

    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.