New Design of Two Queen Horizontal Honey Bee Hive Bases for Commercial and Small Scale Beekeeping Operations

Project Overview

FS22-338
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $14,662.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Texas Honey Company
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Daniel Brantner
Texas Honey Company

Commodities

  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey

Practices

  • Crop Production: beekeeping

    Proposal summary:

    My proposed solutions are two new prototype Two-Queen Horizontal Bee Hive Bases that I have designed.  One base is designed specifically for small scale beekeepers who do not transport their colonies on pallets for pollination purposes, the other base is designed for commercial beekeepers who transport their colonies on pallets across the country for pollination purposes. 

    The attached  Two Queen Horizontal Bee Hive Base Description, shows the design of the prototype bee hive base designed for small beekeepers who do NOT transport their hive on pallets.  This design allows for use of either two removable solid panel hive box dividers, which completely separate the two bee colonies, or two removable queen excluders panel hive box dividers, which allow the worker bees from both bee colonies to freely circulate between the two bee colonies.  The removable solid panel hive box dividers are used when both colonies are in the early stages of development.  During the early stages of development, the brood boxes on each side of the honey super box have one queen and can be monitored to ensure that the queen is laying eggs and the colony is healthy.  Should one of the two queens die, the two removable solid panel hive box dividers can be replaced with two queen excluder panel hive box dividers.  This will allow the queenless colony to survive until such time that a replacement queen can be provided.  When a replacement queen is introduced in to the queenless hive, the two removable queen excluder hive box dividers can be replaced with the two removable solid panel dividers.  Once both of the brood boxes are fully established, two removable queen excluder panel hive box dividers are installed.  This will allow the worker bees from all brood boxes to access the center honey super boxes and act as a single super colony with a total population equal to the population of the individual brood boxes on each side of the honey super boxes.  All the honey storage will occur within the honey supers which are located in the center third of the bee hive base.  Due to the fact that the honey supers will not be stacked on top of the brood hive boxes, as is the traditional configuration in the industry standard vertical beekeeping method, the health of both brood boxes can be easily monitored without having to remove heavy honey supers that are located in the center third of the hive base.  Full honey supers can weigh approximately 60 pounds each.   Therefore, not having to remove the heavy honey supers from above the brood hive boxes in order to check on the health of the brood box is a tremendous advantage to beekeepers during the hot summer months and is also much less disruptive to the bee colony when checking the health of the hive.

    Pollination services generate a large percentage of a commercial beekeeper's income.  Therefore, it is imperative that the industry standard two-hive wide configuration, for stacking on pallets, be maintained for transportation purposes.   The new prototype two-queen horizontal bee have base that I have designed for commercial beekeepers, provides a two-hive wide configuration which allows commercial beekeepers to transport their bee colonies on pallets, while still allowing two queens to coexist in a super colony that shares worker bees.  Per the attached  Two-Queen Horizontal Commercial Bee Hive Base Drawings the primary difference in this commercial hive base vs. the hive base that I designed for small scale beekeepers is that the two colonies do not share centralized honey supers.  Each of the two colonies in the commercial bee hive base store their honey in supers which are placed directly above the brood boxes, similar to a traditional industry standard Langstroth hive configuration.  However, using the removable queen excluder divider panel between the two queen colonies still allows the two bee colonies to function as one super colony and allows the beekeeper to reap the additional honey production benefits created by being able to share worker bees between the two colonies.  The use of the removable queen excluder divider panel also allows for the colony to survive and thrive in the event that one of the queens dies, thus preventing the potential loss of the queenless colony. 

    A key component provided in both of my two-queen horizontal bee hive base designs is that two queens, who are each able to lay 1,500-2,000 eggs per day, can coexist within a single super colony that has a total population that is double in size of each individual colony.  This increased population within a single bee colony is critical to honey production.  In 1937 C.L. Farrar published his famous study in the Journal of Agricultural Research, refer to attachment 1937 CL Farrar Article.  This study showed that a single bee colony with 30,000 bees will probably produce 1.36 times as much honey as two colonies each with 15,000 bees.  This potential honey increase of 36% would be a tremendous benefit to beekeeping operations of all sizes. 

    Both of the new prototype two-queen horizontal bee hive bases that I have developed provide a simple and economical method to increase honey production in a bee colony by providing for a larger bee population within a single colony.  They also reduce the potential of colony loss due to queen issues by allowing for two queens to coexist within a single hive.  Should one of the two queens die, the entire hive will remain viable with the remaining queen until such time that the beekeeper can replace the dead queen.  My two-queen horizontal bee hive bases are designed in such a manner that they are completely compatible with existing industry standard bee hive components, such as base boards, entrance reduces, brood boxes, honey supers, inner cover and top covers, that are readily available.  This allows the beekeeper to utilize industry standard bee hive components as well as use their existing bee hive components to create a more productive, healthy colony.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The first step in my approach will be to construct three (3) new two-queen horizontal bee hive bases for small scale beekeepers and three (3) new two-queen horizontal bee hive bases for commercial beekeepers based on the prototypes described herein in the first week of April 2022.  Once constructed, the method that I will use to study the effectiveness, in terms of bee hive health and honey production, of my two (2) new two-queen horizontal bee hive base designs will be to start with 18 bee colonies of equal bee populations and each colony receiving a new (2022) mated queen.  Six (6) of these colonies will be housed in traditional beekeeping industry standard ten-frame Langstroth brood boxes.  Six (6) of these colonies will be housed in three (3) of my new two-queen horizontal bee hive bases for small scale beekeepers.  The remaining six (6) colonies will be housed in three (3) of my new two-queen horizontal bee hive bases for commercial beekeepers.  The bee colonies will be installed in the 18 new hives mid April 2022.

    For consistency, all eighteen bee colony boxes will be new construction and painted the same color.  The 18 colonies will be positioned in the apiary in three rows of six (6) colonies each.  Each of the three rows of colonies will contain two (2) colonies of each of the three hive options; traditional, new two-queen horizontal bee hive base for small scale beekeepers and new two-queen horizontal bee hive base for commercial beekeepers.  In order to balance the potential effect that location within each row may have on hive health and productivity, each of the three rows of colonies will have a different arrangement of the three types of hives.  The first row will be: (2) Traditional Colonies - (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for small scale beekeepers - (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for commercial beekeepers.  The second row will be: (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for small scale beekeepers - (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for commercial beekeepers - (2) Traditional Colonies.  The third row will be: (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for commercial beekeepers - (2) Traditional Colonies - (2) colonies on a two-queen horizontal bee hive base for small scale beekeepers. 

    Starting in mid-April 2022 and extending through 02/28/2024, all colonies will be monitored on a bi-weekly basis during the months of March - November.  During the winter months of December - February, the colonies will be monitored as weather permits, with the goal being a minimum of one monitoring session per winter month.  General health of each bee colony and the presence of pests such as hive beetles, wax moths and varroa mites will be observed and recorded during each monitoring session.    All 18 colonies will receive equal protein supplements, sugar syrup and preventive medical treatments through 02/28/2024. 

    If present, honey will be harvested and recorded individually for each bee of the 18 bee colonies.  At the end of the summer honey harvest in 2023, the amounts of honey produced in 2022 plus 2023 for each hive will be totaled.  The total honey produced by the six colonies of each type of hive will then be added together to produce a total amount of honey produced by each of the three (3) types of hives over a two year period.  An average annual amount of honey produced by each type of hive can then be determined.

    The health of each hive be will be measured based on the estimated population population of each hive on 02/28/2024.    

    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.