Is there a good reason to leave two queens in a hive?
Q. I’ve heard that about 20% of hives have two queens in the summer. Got one of those. I was showing a 10-year-old and his Dad a hive, and pointed out our marked queen. Of course it was the kid who asked “well, what’s that other long bee then?” Is there a good reason to leave two queens in a hive? —C. S., Indiana
A: We turned to bee expert Cleo Hogan for this one, who provided his usual great insights:
There is abundant evidence that the two queens may live side by side in the hive for a period of time, both laying eggs, until one is destroyed. During supercedure, the old queen is still around when the new queen emerges and leaves for her maiden flight. Kinda like insurance, in case the new queen does not come back from her maiden flight, didn’t get mated sufficiently, or doesn’t start laying eggs. Abundant literature suggests the two queens coexist for a period of time to ensure that the new queen will lay properly.
There is widespread disagreement as to how the old queen is treated in supercedure. There are those who say they tear off legs, wings etc., and throw her off the front porch, but only after the new queen is laying. Some say workers will ball the queen and kill her. Some say the two queens will fight it out until one is killed. There is some literature that suggests they simply banish her from the hive without killing her, again, only after the new queen is approved and accepted.
I would not leave two queens in one hive unless you double screen them, and I can only think of one reason to do that, (after the honey flow is over), and that would be to see which one is the best queen. After determining that, I would split away the lesser queen, (unless she is not worthy to keep) and have two colonies. If both are laying, and worthy to keep, there should be plenty of brood to take and start the new colony. Plan on taking it through the winter in one deep, or one deep and one shallow.
The reason to double screen is, if, they meet in either the bottom box or the second box it is possible that they could damage each other, (resulting in no good queen), or the lesser queen could win.
If you don’t want to split and make a new hive, and if both are good queens, do you need a good queen in another hive? If so, cage her, and requeen her to another hive. Perhaps a close friend needs a queen.
Nice to have a two queen “problem”. There are lots of possibilities. Certainly better than no queen.