Evaluating two-colony hives for increased productivity and varroa mite control

Project Overview

ONE05-034
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,744.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Maryann Frazier
Penn State University

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Animal Production: parasite control
  • Pest Management: cultural control, physical control

    Proposal abstract:

    Beekeeping in the Northeast United States and in other northern climates is at present only marginally a sustainable form of agriculture. Since the introduction of parasitic mites and especially the external mite, Varroa destructor, beekeepers have experienced devastating overwintering losses. In addition, due to the devastating impact of these parasitic mites and other pest, wild and kept honey bee colonies and beekeepers are in dramatic decline in the Northeast. This could have a potential significant impact on bee pollinated crops. Mike Johnston has designed and conducted preliminary testing (SARE Farmer Grant) of a two-colony hive that has shown promise of improved overwintering, honey production and possibly nucleus colony (aka nucs – units used for starting new colonies or replacing dead colonies in spring) production. We propose here to further test this hive system in three locations in the Northeast. In addition to comparing this hive against the standard Langstroth hive for improved overwintering survival and honey and bee (nuc) production, we will also compare the varroa mite levels in the two different hive designs. If we are successful, this hive system could provide an addition IPM tool for beekeepers trying to employ mite reducing techniques rather than routine chemical application to manage their varroa mite populations and potentially increase the number of bee colonies and beekeepers in the Northeast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Mike Johnston has designed and conducted preliminary testing (SARE Farmer Grant) of a two-colony hive that has shown promise of improved overwintering, honey production and possibly nucleus colony (aka nucs – units used for starting new colonies or replacing dead colonies in spring) production. In his study, Mr. Johnston compared the overwintering of standard hives with Two Colony Hives. During the experiment northern stock queens raised during the previous growing season were used. Over the course of three winters, the Standard Hives successfully overwintered 0.71 clusters of bees per hive while the Two Colony Hives overwintered 1.49 clusters of bees per hive. The Two Colony Hives were able to more than double the rate of overwintering of standard hives.

    We would like to further test this hive system in three locations in the Northeast. In addition to comparing this hive against the standard Langstroth hive for improved overwintering, survival and honey and bee (nuc) production, we will also compare the varroa mite levels in the two different hive designs. There is some evidence that the simple act of dividing colonies can reduce mite levels. If we are successful, this hive system could provide an addition IPM tool for beekeepers trying to employ mite reducing techniques rather than routine chemical application to manage their varroa mite populations. This alone could improve the overwintering success of colonies in the northeast and reduce the use of chemical pesticides. In addition, this system has the potential to provide nucleus colonies early in the spring, reducing the need for beekeepers to purchase expensive package bees from the southern U.S. thus providing additional income for local beekeepers. Finally, from his preliminary work, Mike Johnston has show the potential of this hive system to significantly increase honey production. This could lead to increased income for beekeeper in the Northeast, thus entice beekeepers to keep more colonies or new individuals to become beekeepers.

    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.