Over the past hundred years or so there have been many attempts to increase the number
of foragers, by having more than one queen in a hive. Impressive yields have been
reported but, probably due to the practical difficulties of access to brood and resultant
extra labour, the system has not gained much popularity. The Drawhive overcomes the
The system basically consists of a queen-right colony, with supers above a queen
excluder, as usual; plus another queen-right colony above a second queen excluder
on top. A top entrance is arranged, otherwise any drones raised in the top box may
clog the excluder. This can be by cutting a piece out of the excluder frame, or boring
a hole in the body. Another way is to make up a thin frame with a gap in one side,
to pin on the excluder.
The double colony can put out a large force of foragers and give a heavier crop than
two separate colonies.
Two queen colonies normally have high morale and vigour, probably due to there being
plenty of queen substance. It also provides an insurance against the loss of a queen.
The Drawhive makes the two queen system a practical proposition, because the bottom
lot can be managed without dismantling the hive. The top body is a standard brood
box. The system saves on a floor, crown board and roof.
The arrangement can be brought about by splitting a strong colony. That is a colony
with seven or more frames of brood. It should be carried out before any queen cells
are raised, or the manipulation may not break the swarming urge.
The brood, except the frame with the queen, is placed over the supers and excluder,
in a standard body, with the youngest brood toward the centre. The nest should be
confined with a dummy or frame feeder. Two frames of food should be left with the
queen and this box filled up with combs or frames of foundation. To get foundation
drawn out, there must be a flow on, or syrup should be fed. A frame feeder or Boardman
entrance feeder are appropriate.
If the queen can’t be found, shake most of the bees off, back into the box, leaving
one frame with eggs and young brood. The nurse bees will climb up to cover the brood.
The colony must be strong or there is a risk of chilling the brood. It helps to put
insulation over the crown board.
The next day, a screened board, with entrance, is placed under the top box. The opening
should be on a different side, to reduce the risk of a new queen going in the wrong
A porter clearer board, with mesh over the holes, could be used but a top entrance
must be provided.
There must be plenty of nurse bees, pollen and honey to rear good queens. If there
is any doubt about the sufficiency of honey, they should be fed.
After five days there should be queen cells in the top box.. Any sealed cells should
be culled, to ensure queens are raised from the youngest larvae. Alternatively, all
cells can be culled and other material given from a breeder queen.
When a mated queen is laying, the screened board is replaced with a queen excluder,
with entrance. The bees will be seen to be busily bringing loads of pollen, to the
top box, when the new queen is laying. Extra frames are added to fill the top box,
ahead of need.
A special Two Queen Board, by Ron Brown, provides the entrance and does away with
the need to swap boards and excluders.
Bear in mind that it will be around six weeks before any extra foragers are available,
so the operation must be done early enough to take advantage of a main flow. Generally,
a good over-wintered colony fed 2.5 litres of syrup (1 kg : 750 ml) in the middle
of March, and the same three weeks later, should have brood on at least seven frames
by peak dandelion time, towards the end of April. Now is the time to make the split.
At least one super should have been added when the second lot of syrup was taken
down, to give enough room, and it would would be a good idea to make it up to three,
when putting the screened board under the top brood box, to save lifting later.
The unit should be able to take maximum advantage of a main flow starting around
the end of June.