Moving the bees in!

I have been a beekeeper for 3 years now1 and when I started out I had the idea that I would produce huge amounts of honey with which I could feed my children on all year round.  It hasn't turned out that way... in fact my honey harvest has been small at best.    I decided at some point that my focus should be on observing the bees, providing pollination for things and maybe, just maybe I might get a jar or two of honey at some point.

I keep my bees at the allotment2 and I currently have two active colonies which I hope to double this year to four colonies in two locations. I decided that it makes sense to have one parent hive in each location and make splits or carry out swarm controls generating one or more extra colonies in each apiary from the parent.  I can then work to improve each apiary by selectively breeding queens from the best of the two hives.  Well that is my plan anyway!  

Bees in their new spot

Now the standard advice for moving a hive is to shut the entrance at night time when all the bees are tucked up in bed and move them to their new location at dawn the following morning. This makes sure you don't leave any foraging bees behind who return home to find that their home has disappeared.  So moving bees in winter makes perfect sense as all the bees are clustered and not flying at any time of the day.  When the weather warms up the bees will buzz about and reassess their position and this  seems to be a fine way to settle them into their new location. 

The general rule for moving hive in terms of distance is 3 feet or 3 miles.  The reasons for this is if you move bees somewhere closer than 3 miles they might pick up their old flight paths and return to the old hive position - greatly weakening a hive of its foraging bees. My orchard is 3.48 miles away from the allotment so it should be fine.

For my move I chose a cold but dry day, the temperature was about 3Âșc, and I made the move at about 10am.  Normally, bees would be flying at this time of day but due to the cold it was all quiet.  The first thing to do was to plug the entrance so that the bees couldn't fly about inside the car whilst on the move.  I used a piece of new sponge and plugged the entrance hole by pushing it in tightly with my knife.  I have seen some people gaffa taping this shut and also gaffa taping the joints between the boxes. I took my chances with just sponge and that seemed fine to me.  

In order to secure the boxes together I used a simple piece of cord.  You could use a ratchet strap for this job3 but for me the price of a roll of paracord compared to ratchet straps is worth it.  I used a trucker's hitch on the cord to lock everything in place. It works great and I'm actually going to leave it on to prevent any disasters like a roof blowing off in a winter storm. A trucker's hitch consists of a loop on one end of the line (I use a bowline4) the running part of the rope is taken around the hive and fed through this loop.  It is then pulled back the way it came and passed though another loop made onto the running part of the line (I use an alpine butterfly knot5).  You can then pull the running line and this will pull down on the two loops creating 3x more force than a single loop would6.  I then finish it off with a slippery hitch for easy untying.  Here is a picture of the finished knot.  I leave some extra on the line for later expansions in the hive size.

Trucker's Hitch
Once everything was secured, I put the hive in the back of my car and drove it to the orchard.  Something to remember here is that the frames inside the hive should be aligned with the direction of travel.  This prevents any swinging frames when you are braking or accelerating. A gentle drive is best I think.  

I decided to position the hive in the over grown swardy area of the orchard.  This should provide plenty of forage and cover from passers by.  I made sure the hive was positioned south east and then removed the sponge.  The bees stayed put and as far as I know they haven't been out and about to check out their new neighbour hood yet. I'm sure they will on a sunny day though!

So a successful move! I would recommend moving hives in winter - a simple and sting free operation. Fingers crossed they will settle into Byng Brook Orchard and find it a very fine place to live.

1 Beginner alert! Any comments or suggested improvements welcomed.
2 Where I have a micro-vineyard in its 3rd year. A long story...another blog maybe?? Would you say I am obsessed with projects?
6 it works like a single block and tackle


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