If you’ve looked at getting your own hive, or currently have your own bee hive, you may have heard people suggest that you get two beehives.
This post will briefly address the reasons why having two or more hives can be of great benefit over just having the one hive.
By having two hives side by side you can swap resources between the two hives very easily.
These resources include the brood, nectar (honey) and pollen stores.
If one hive is deficient in any of these, then you can quite simply transfer a frame or two of these resources between the hives to help a sister out.
This beats having to feed your hives sugar syrup to boost nectar stores as it requires less work for the bees in having to process the syrup. Instead, they can simply consume the syrup for themselves or feed it to their young.
Even more handily, if one hive is struggling for numbers, as in the hive is deficient in bee strength, you can transfer frames of capped brood over to the weaker hive.
Once the young bees begin to hatch, the increase in numbers can really help out the weaker hive, as they get thousands of new workers without having had to expend the time and resources required to raise them from eggs.
This can come in handy especially if one of the hives has found themselves queenless.
A common remedy to amend a queenless colony is to simply transfer a frame of eggs and young larvae into the queenless colony.
This can allow the queenless colony the opportunity to raise a new queen from the young larvae. While it does take several weeks until the new queen is laying, it is an easy and cheap solution to fixing a queenless colony.
If you did not have a frame of eggs right next door, then you would need to buy a queen or buy a frame of eggs from another beekeeper.
Both of these options will cost money, and may not even be achievable due to seasonal availability of mated queens, or the difficulty in maintaining a frame of young larvae (keeping them warm) while transporting significant distance.
There are a number of other times when simply swapping a frame or two between neighbouring hives can be beneficial, but those two mentioned above are among the most common and can be of great benefit to both the bees and a new beekeeper.
As a new beekeeper, it can be challenging to identify what a strong hive is, as opposed to a weak one.
This can lead to difficulty in determining whether a hive is actually struggling due to a serious problem, or whether it is just off to a slow start due to a lack of nectar flow.
By having two hives side by side and being subject to the same conditions, it really helps a new beekeeper to gain experience in assessing colony strength.
Sometimes a hive may fail due to a poor queen, or due to a disease or pest. In isolation, a new beekeeper will have no experience to go on when making a call about how the hive is going.
At least with two hives, the beekeeper is better able to pick up on differences in how each hive is going. If one is booming and one is struggling, then the beekeeper can investigate the cause and learn valuable lessons in improving that hive, all the while still getting to experience the (hopefully) good buildup in the other hive.
Ideally, both hives will go well, however, if one does not, then the beekeeper essentially gets double the experience and while one struggles, they may still get to take some honey that season.
There are some disadvantages that spring to mind.
Firstly, the initial outlay for the hives is doubled.
The purchase of a second hive could be outside of the financial means of the new beekeeper.
If this is a problem, then by all means, just go ahead with the purchase of a single hive.
Two is not necessary, it is more of a ‘nice to have’.
That said, a lot of the startup costs for a new beekeeper will be in the purchase of personal protective equipment, hive tools, smoker, extraction equipment and the like.
For the most part, these costs won’t vary with the addition of a second hive. Mathematically it isn’t as though you are doubling your overall startup costs, just doubling the number of bees you have to buy.
Secondly, the space you’ve allowed to keep the bees may not permit a second hive. This could simply be due to physical space, or the size of your property and its proximity to neighbours.
Perhaps the extra bee traffic may not be considered suitable by your neighbours or family. When trying to get approval for an additional hive, you could try to explain to them some of the advantages mentioned above.
If that fails, then, unfortunately, you’ll have to just stick to the one. Again, not a show stopper, just you’ll have to take extra care of your solo hive and ideally buddy up with another beekeeper nearby.
The only other disadvantage that we can think of is just the time and extra effort required.
That said though, if you are going to suit up, light your smoker, and get stuck into one hive, then the time taken to work on the second hive is going to be negligible, and let’s face it, only add to the enjoyment anyway!
Feel free to comment below if you’ve either found having one hive alone difficult to manage or if you think you can get by fine with just one hive.