Hives Are Heavy.
They are ridiculous. Who knew that something that contains a substance so golden, shiny and smooth could be so, so heavy? And yes, that is an issue. You already notice it when you open op your hive to inspect the different layers. But even more so: Lifting and Shifting hives is an essential part of beekeeping. We move them around for several reasons:
- To take advantage of pollen and nectar sources
- To avoid exposed windy areas
- To protect new hives and nuc’s from robbing (can especially be problematic in urban areas)
- To position hives where we can easily access them and give the bees regular attention
- To coordinate with farming (or other agricultural operations)
Firstly I will talk about moving hives to a completely new location; then I will articulate moving hives over small distances (within your backyard, for example)
Things to consider BEFORE you move your hive to a new location.
Before you drive your hives to a completely new location you always need to check your hives for diseases first. Also, check the condition of the actual hive, especially old ones: are they falling apart? Replace components if needed. Then, make sure your hives are strapped with a solid hive strap. If you don’t strap your hive you risk the hives will open up during transport. Driving can be a wobbly business, after all. Don’t be tempted to be lazy by leaving the straps off!
You should also make sure that you close off the entrances. You don’t want any bees escaping or attacking you when you move them. Shifting hives is a stressful event for bees and if you don’t stop them they will definitely come out to check what is going on. Fill up the “hive-holes” with grass and/or place an entrance reducer in front of the entrance.
How to move those heavy hives?
Firstly, the best time for moving your bees is early in the morning or at night: they will all be at home in the hive, and these are the coolest times of day (to prevent overheated bees stuck in their hive). When you can, use a ramp and a barrow to carry and lift the hives onto the back of a truck or trailer. Otherwise make sure you are with at least two people to manually lift them, especially when your hives consist of two boxes or more. Load your hives carefully, evenly and balanced on the truck/trailer and most importantly: don’t overload!
Overloaded or not? I found this impressive photo on http://anarheck.wordpress.com/
All ready? Go!
Now that you’re driving – this is the scariest part. The bees “locked up” in their hives are at risk of suffocating or overheating if you don’t provide optimal ventilation: in the open air.
Try to drive carefully (for things that can go wrong – see my previous post: the Hazardous Beekeeper)
Complete your mission as fast as you can. This means you need to prepare yourself: enough fuel, enough food and drink and go to the toilet before you go. Try to not make any stops on the way. Of course, when driving long distances you might have to stop at some stage, but try not to stop in public spaces especially when there are still some bees clinging on to the outside of the hive (and that’s likely).
Making your move as smooth as possible, also means that the new site has to be prepared: a safe, accessible sunny and sheltered location with plenty of food and drink for the bees, where they won’t annoy any neighbours. Unload your hives carefully and, very important: make sure you open the hives up again! You will regret it very much if you forget to do this…
Interesting fact: according to the book Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand, there are minimum and a maximum limits for shifting hives. If you want to shift a hive on a small scale (for example to a different spot in your backyard) you should always move it two metres at a time (unless you are moving a group of hives; then you could move them, say, four metres at a time). If you move them more than this, the bees will get confused about where their home is. They will pile up on the empty spot of the old location. If you really want to move hives a bit further, there is the option of leaving one hive in the original spot to catch the lost bees…
Again, the same principles apply for when you move your hive on a small scale: close the hive, using a hive strap, and choose the best time of day (early or late) to do it.
On the other hand, if you move your hives over bigger distances, make sure that you move them at least three to five kilometres – these are the distances that bees can fly on a daily basis. If you move them less than this, they will get confused again and try to find their home on the old location.
Bruegel’s Beekeepers carry their hives as if they weigh nothing.