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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 PDT

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: People

Bud & Mary Rickett

Buck & Mary Rickett: Successful Small Farmers

by:
from issue:

Ten years ago I answered a classified ad and went to a small western Oregon farm to look at some young laying hens that were for sale. That visit to Buck and Mary Rickett’s place made a quiet impression on me that has lasted to this day. On that first visit in ’71 my eager new farmer’s eye and ear absorbed as much as possible of what seemed like an unusual successful, small operation. I asked what must have seemed like an endless stream of questions on that early visit.

It Is Who We Are

It Is Who We Are

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It is NOT a small world, it is a BIG world, as wide and various as you can possibly imagine. We are not alone. When we feel ourselves shut down, crowded by worry and a sense of failure, it would serve us well to remember Bulldog’s admonition, “Boss, never give up, no matter what, never give up.” Anyway, how could we? Who would put up the hay? Who would unharness the team? Who would milk the cows? Who would wax the cheese? Who would feed those woolly pigs? It’s got to be us, after all it is who we are.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

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from issue:

In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.

NYFC Bootstrap Videos The Golden Yoke

NYFC Bootstrap Videos: The Golden Yoke

I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with The National Young Farmers Coaltion again when they called up about being involved in their Bootstrap Blog Series. In 2013, all of their bloggers were young and beginning lady dairy farmers, and they invited us on board to consult and collaborate in the production of videos of each farmer contributor to the blog series.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Cindy’s Curds & Whey

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The Burgess dairy farm and cheese factory are sustainable operations, meaning that nearly every by-product is re-used or recycled. For example, the usually-discarded whey goes to feed their own pigs, producing an exceptionally tasty, lean pork. Whey is the liquid portion of milk that develops after the milk protein has coagulated, and contains water, milk sugar, albuminous proteins, and minerals.

Great Oregon Steam Up

Great Oregon Steam-Up

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I went to the Great Oregon Steam-Up over in Brooks, Oregon, near Salem. Lynn has been invited and has wanted to attend for years, but this time of year might very well be the busiest time of year for him. He’s always farming or writing or editing or painting or forecasting or businessing or just generally fightin’ the power, yo. It’s nuts, I don’t know how he does it all. So, when I told him I was going to go, he was very interested and wanted a good report.

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

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We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

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“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

by:
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One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.

Richard Douglass, Self-sufficient Farmer

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I’ve got two teams of Belgians that power all the things on the farm. I don’t have a tractor, I don’t have a truck or anything like that. Everything must be done by them. I have two buggy horses that I use for transportation. I have a one-seater buggy for when I’m going into work or into town by myself and then I have a two-seater one for when I’m with the kids.

Rope Tricks

a short piece on rope tricks from the 20th anniversary Small Farmer’s Journal.

Parasitic Experiences

Parasitic Experiences

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It all started with a sign. “We Have Worms.” It’s not complicated to make — I tore the cardboard box, handed it to Andy, and he wrote on it with a black magic marker and hung it in the store window. Everyone knows what it means, it means that if you’re not gonna go diggin’ for the earthworms yourself, you come in and and buy bait from him. It’s a seasonal sign; we scrap it every Autumn. No biggie.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

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I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

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I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.

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