Single vs Double Brood Boxes • Ecrotek (2023)

How to successfully run your hives all year round

The brood box is the most integral piece of equipment for a successful beehive. It contains the queen bee and all of her eggs. The brood box is located at the bottom of the hive, underneath the supers and separated by a screen.

You can choose to run your hive with a single brood box, or give the queen more room to move by adding a second one. There’s no one correct way, and trends have changed over time.

Internationally renowned honeybee scientist, Dr Mark Goodwin, explains:

“Before 2006, every hive in New Zealand had a two-box brood nest. This was because honey prices were really low during that time and two boxes were easier to manage. However, over time as honey prices increased, people moved over to a one-box brood nest.”

(Video) Beekeeping 101: Should you run one or two brood boxes for your bee hives? - Dr Mark Goodwin

You will need to decide whether using one or two brood boxes is right for you. Beekeepers develop preferences depending on what suits their needs and style.

The pros of one brood box

Less equipment

The obvious benefit of using one brood box is that you will have less equipment to buy and use. Your beehives will be easier to transport, lift and manipulate, which may be essential if you’re doing all your beekeeping on your own.

Better visuals

One brood box makes it easier to check brood for disease and infestation, look for swarm cells and find the queen.

The beehive will stay warmer

During the winter months, your bees will not need as much space. Colony numbers dramatically decline in winter and the queen stops laying as many eggs. One brood box is a more confined space so there is less room to heat – helping the bees sustain a much warmer atmosphere.

(Video) 5 Must-Have Ecrotek Beekeeping Products | Ecrotek Beekeeping Supplies

The cons of one brood box

Substantial management needed

During the spring period when the colony has increased and the queen doesn’t have any room left to lay, the population of your colony may stop growing at the rate it should, which will decrease your honey production.

Less room for sugar syrup
When you need to start feeding sugar syrup, feeders will take room away from the brood nest, which will also slow down honey production. With a two-frame feeder inside your brood nest, that’s two frames less space you have for your queen. If you use a ventilated top feeder to save space, it may cool the hive slightly and slow the queen down.

The pros of two brood boxes

No space restrictions

The queen has two boxes to lay her eggs through. This means during spring and summer your colony will be able to grow to its full potential.

Less checking

(Video) Trevs Bees - Paradise honey box. Putting second brood box on.

With two brood boxes, there is enough space for your queen to lay as many eggs as she can. This means you won’t need to check your hives as often.

Less feeding
When using one brood box, there is only enough room to feed your broods sugar syrup in small increments. With two, you can give them larger amounts less often. This also means you avoid the risk of disturbing the queen.

The cons of two brood boxes

More equipment

A double box is heavier and harder to manipulate than a single. They take up more room so you will get fewer hives per load. This means you will have to make more trips per hive.

Too cold for the brood in winter

In winter you may want to switch to one box – this is what many beekeepers do. You could use two in winter but the queen will travel to the top box to stay warm. Double-brood boxes are much harder to keep warm which may slow down the growth of the colony.

(Video) Trevs Bees - Shifting a double Brood Box Langstroth beehive into my 22 frame Long Hive

Varroa treatment

When using two brood boxes, it may be a good idea to use varroa treatment. When you have a bigger drone brood you are more at risk of the varroa mite infiltrating your hives.

So, what’s best for you?

These days, single brood boxes are much more popular than two. Running your hive to collect honey in a single box will mean a high number of bees on a small frame surface. So even though it may take more management and consistent checks, you will probably find that the single brood system is more efficient.

“If you want to do the approach of minimum hive numbers and maximum management, then a single brood box is the way to go. However, if you want to be able to manage a larger number of hives with less input into each, then a double brood box will be much better,” says Dr Mark Goodwin.

You don’t need to decide how many brood boxes you will use and then keep it that way forever. If you already have a double-brood nest, consider using a single to see how much harder it is. And if you’ve been using one brood box, try two and see if it’s easier for the sort of beekeeping that you’re doing.

For more advice and insight, watch our best practice video with Dr Mark Goodwin here.

Want to know more about managing your hives? Ecrotek offers lots of free resources to help you get started. Check out our website for more information.

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