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Is 2 hives better than 1

It’s often mentioned in beginner beekeeper material that starting with 2 hives is better than 1, but why?

I support this recommendation and for these reasons:

  1. Having a second hive offers resources that may save a colony e.g. queenless. A frame of brood, bees and food can save a colony in many cases or at least reinstate confidence and security for the beekeeper and colony. This is particularly helpful if the beekeeper is far away from help (rural/regional location)

  2. It demonstrates to the new beekeeper that no 2 colonies are the same and each express different characteristics caused by a myriad of reasons e.g. genetics, location etc.

  3. Having this reference point for comparison speeds up the learning process

  4. There’s a limit to how frequent a hive should be opened up so it offers more opportunity for learning

Do our experienced beekeepers agree or have anything else to add?

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I agree 100%. I say that cause I learned the hard way when I started with only 1 hive. My hive basically started failing and I believe went queenless. I definitely wish I had another hive at the time to add a couple frames of eggs and larva and nurse bees.

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I agree- and 3 is better than 2!

some extra reasons:

  1. harvesting/maintaining two hives is less than double the work of one. Economy of scale.
  2. More honey
  3. More bees!

but why stop at 3? :wink:

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I also agree 100%, you basically covered all the advantages of owning 2 hives…

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Somehow this topic got bumped up for no apparent reason.

I might as well share my laying worker success story:
Two hives spaced about 20 meters apart, especially similar strength hives can be very handy if one colony develops a laying worker.

After removing all the frames containing drones, then replacing them with one brood frame with BIAS, simply swap the two hives positions. Only do this during good weather, with stores coming in. All the bees that have done orientation flights up until that time will swap hives during the next few days.

The dwindling of bees in the laying worker hive will be replaced by bees from the queen-rite hive. The growing number of those bees will influence the colony into building emergency queens, which normally doesn’t happen with a colony full of bees in a laying worker hive.

That strategy has worked for me every time so far.

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This is genius Jeff. And yes, another great benefit for having 2 hives.

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In reply to my message, because it’s too late to edit. When I said “removing all the frames containing drones”, I should have said “all the frames containing drone brood”. A natural occurrence when a laying worker is active. Sometimes 3 or 4 frames can contain drone brood, notoriously in worker comb.

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@JeffH what causes a “laying worker hive”?

Hi Trevor, a “laying worker hive” will eventuate once the colony runs out of options for producing a new queen after it becomes queenless. Some workers will become laying workers which will result in drones only. The colony does this for the purpose of producing as many drones as it can while it is dying out (or doomed). The process is an effort by the colony to pass on it’s genes through all the drones it produces.

It’s also a way for the colony to use up some of the valuable resources they accumulated, however that’s just a side issue.

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Hi All, I know this seems an old post but would like to revisit this question. I am a newbie and have had a single hive since December 2020. My question is: I would love to have a second hive but am very limited for space. How far should 2 hives be apart? Does it matter if they are not side by side? I could probably fit a second hive in the area I have my current hive but the shape of this space is like an upside down equal lateral triangle. My current hive is at the smallest point or top of the triangle. Thoughts? Advise? most welcome. Regards Karen

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Hi Karen,
Thanks for your question.
You don’t need to have loads of space between hives - a couple of feet is enough.
You won’t need much room for each hive either, but keep in mind you’ll want to be able to access each comfortably for inspections, and will need a little room at either end of the hive for harvesting at the rear and to give your bees a bit of a clear flight path at the front of the hive.
If you are positioning them near each other, it’s best that they face the same direction.
Alternatively, you can have them located in different parts of the yard - they don’t need to be adjacent (though having them closer together might simplify procedures such as transferring frames between hives).
Please let us know if you have any other concerns or questions at all :slight_smile:

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