The trouble with triples
If triple-deep Langstroth hives are so good, why are they not more popular?
This is a really good question with several possible answers. All of the answers I’ve listed below are valid, but each and every one has to do with the needs of the beekeeper, not the needs of the bees.
- Most hives are singles or doubles simply because commercial beekeepersboth migratory beekeepers and those who move their bees from field to field locallyjust don’t use them. It is difficult and probably not cost effective to move triples if you don’t have to. And if you lose a few more colonies than you would if you kept them in triples, the losses (I’m assuming) wouldn’t come close to justifying the extra time and expense.
- As for hobbyistsespecially beginnershives are nearly always sold as singles or doubles when you order them from a catalog or buy them in a store. “Complete hive kits” are usually singles and sometimes doubles. Even hives sold between beekeepers are mostly singles or doubles. All of this makes us think of a hive as something with two brood boxes—but that is a human thought, not a bee thought.
- Triples are harder to handle. Hive inspections in a triple are a lot more work than in a double, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise. And they are also taller, especially when topped with multiple honey supers. It’s hard to lift heavy weights over your head.
- You end up leaving a lot more honey in a triple than a double. Many people find it difficult to sacrifice all that extra honey to the bees. Most people harvest the honey above the second deep. With triples, you harvest only the honey above the third deep. Of course, this is one of several reasons why bees overwinter so well in a triplelots of food and lots of heat capacity.
- It is more expensive. Not only do you need more equipment (more boxes with frames and maybe a stepladder) but you lose that extra honey and any income it may have produced.
As I’ve mentioned before, beekeepers frequently report better overwintering success, larger honey harvests, less need for sugar syrup, earlier spring build-up, easier mite management, and fewer swarms after they convert to triples. This has been my experience as well with the few triples I have overwintered so far.
But, as with most aspects of beekeeping, the decision to go with triple deeps should be based on your current success, personal objectives, climate, finances, and physical ability to deal with the hives. Whether the pros outweigh the cons is a decision only you can make.