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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

Moving Bees

Moving Bees

by Mary Norton

Moving beehives from one location to another is often a necessary step in apiary management. Commercial beekeepers routinely move large numbers of hives often during a season, to pollinate crops, avoid pesticide applications or to utilize specific honey flows. Beekeeping hobbyists may also move bees to distant honey flows or pollination sites, or to bring home a newly purchased hive.

Large-scale beekeepers usually utilize specialized equipment: truck-mounted loaders or forklifts that rapidly load and unload pallets of hives from truck and trailer rigs. However, the beekeeper with a few hives can successfully move his bees with equipment available at home. As in many aspects of bee husbandry, the procedure is simple if the beekeeper understands and acts in harmony with the bees’ normal activities. Planning and attention to detail is required to minimize equipment damage, bee injury, and lost bees.

Moving honeybee hives short distances within the apiary, for example, requires that the beekeeper accommodate the bees’ directional senses, which enable them to return to their own hive. Because the bees “read” their location by orientation to the sun, the hive may be moved a greater distance forward or backward in the apiary than it can laterally. However, if the distance is too great, “drifting” will occur, and disoriented, lost bees will return to the previous hive location, or attempt to enter adjacent hives. Homeless bees are not productive bees, nor happy bees, undesirable in the beeyard to both people and other bees. A primary goal during any move should be to prevent lost bees. Thus, for short moves, the hive should be moved a short distance every day until the new location is reached.

Moving Bees

Similarly, hives moved longer distances must be transported 2 – 3 miles beyond the flight ranges of their former location to prevent foraging bees from returning to their old home. Such moves are best made when all the field bees are inside — late in the day or early in the morning. Disturbing the bee’s exit from the hive in some way — a board propped across the entrance, or grass in the doorway — will make the bees mark the new location as they leave the hive to forage. If the move is short enough that some bees do return to the old hive site, a hive body may be left there for them. This may then be joined to the rest of the hive in a few days.

Ideally, moving bees is accomplished in accord with the hive’s activities, as a two-step procedure. The hive must first be prepared for the move, and these disruptive events are best accomplished during the day — sunny warm flight weather. Part two, the move itself, is done with minimal disturbance, when the apiary is quiet and the hive’s inhabitants are all at home — cool late evening or early morning. The beekeeper’s goal is to have the bees settled in their new location before flight-time the next day.

To prepare the hive for the move, first remove any surplus honey. Moving bees is a two-person job at best, and large hives are very heavy. Bigger hives are much more likely to be dropped or tipped over during the moving process. In general, if the hive is larger than two or three deep boxes, the move will be easier on bees and beekeeper if some honey is removed.

Next, the loosely stacked boxes of the hive must be attached together to ensure containment of the bees despite the jostling and tilting (and perhaps accidental dropping) during the move. Several methods are commonly used. Wooden laths require no special equipment. On at least two sides of the hive, a pair of laths are nailed from the bottom board across all the hive bodies.

Moving Bees

Hive staples, available from bee supply stores, are inexpensive wide copper staples designed to connect one hive body to another. At least two staples, angled oppositely, are required at each juncture to prevent parallelograming of the hive boxes, and subsequent escape of the bees.

A third method, strapping the hive together, avoids nail damage to the hive boxes, and eliminates pounding on the hive with a hammer (never popular with the bees) as must be done to set staples or laths. Metal or plastic strapping may be used, but I prefer my reusable 1″ nylon straps with overcenter snaplatches, purchased from an auto parts specialty store.

Strapping a hive will tightly bind the hive cover to the hive. If strapping is not used, the top of the hive may be closed by simply nailing the hive cover to the top hive box. However, if the move will keep the bees confined to the hive during the day, an easily built top-screen will give the hive added ventilation. Water may be sprayed onto the top-screen to help cool the contained bees during a warm day.

To close the bees into the hive, built-to-fit entrance screens tacked onto the hive front are ideal. Folded screens or rags may be tucked into the hive entrance, but invariably a few determined bees will find their way out. Solid entrance blockers such as boards or duct tape are for short moves only — they can dangerously decrease the hive’s ventilation.

Carrying the hive is simplified by the attachment of a pair of 1″ x 2″ cleats to the front and back of the hive. Besides providing handy lifting handles on the lower hive bodies, the cleats offer an attachment point for commercial or hand-made hive carriers. These grasp the hive sedan-chair style, offering two pairs of handles to aid long carries.

Ideally, all preparations for the move except the final placement of the entrance screens are completed during the day. The bees will then have a chance to settle down after any pounding or disruption of the hive, and can return to their normal activities. As the day cools and the sun goes down, the fields bees return to the hive for the night.

Moving Bees

When all is quiet at the hive, the actual move may begin. Keep in mind that bees disturbed at night react differently than during the day. In the dark, their tendency is to crawl, not fly, although they will fly towards light. Protective clothing should be used, with extra attention at the wrists and ankles to avoid crawling escapees. Flashlights with red lenses or covered with red cellophane may be used without attracting the bees. A bee veil should be kept handy while driving, as the warmer cab temperature may activate sluggish bees, hidden on clothing or equipment.

With minimal disturbance, then, the hive entrance is closed. Gently shaking the hive will agitate the bees, checking for leaks or cracks which can be closed with duct tape. When all is secure, the hive may be moved.

For truck travel, top-heavy beehives must be tied securely. Wedging the hives in place with empty supers or other equipment will help eliminate swaying and tilting. Minimizing hive movement will help prevent crushing injury to the bees within the hive.

At the new location, set the hive in place, then wait at least 10 to 15 minutes to allow the bees to settle after the move. When the bees are quiet, carefully remove the entrance screens. Mark the entrance with a handful of grass, sticks or a board, so the bees will orient themselves with special care when they first leave the hive.

As the sun comes up, and the new day’s temperature slowly rises into flight-time, housekeeper bees begin to repair the damage done to the combs, and remove the bees dead or injured during the move. Soon the field bees begin to explore their new pollen and nectar sources. Within a few days, the honeybee colony will be its smoothly productive self again, well-established and happy in its new location.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

by:
from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

by:
from issue:

After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

by:
from issue:

Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Lost Apples

Lost Apples

The mindboggling agricultural plant and animal diversity, at the beginning of the twentieth century, should have been a treasure trove which mankind worked tirelessy to maintain. Such has not been the case. Alas, much has been lost, perhaps forever. Here are images and information on a handful of apple varieties from a valuable hundred year old text in our library.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

by:
from issue:

Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

by:
from issue:

The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

by:
from issue:

The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Peach

Peach

by:
from issue:

The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT