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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: How-To & Plans

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

by:
from issue:

After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting Part 2

by:
from issue:

Budding is the operation of applying a single bud, bearing little or no wood, to the surface of the living wood of the stock. The bud is applied directly to the cambium layer of the stock. It is commonly inserted under the bark of the stock, but in flute-budding a piece of bark is entirely removed, and the bud is used to cover the wound. There is every gradation between budding and grafting proper.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

The Tip Cart

The Tip Cart

by:
from issue:

When horses were the main source of power on every farm, in the British Isles it was the tip-cart, rather than the wagon which was the most common vehicle, and for anyone farming with horses, it is still an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. The farm cart was used all over the country, indeed in some places wagons were scarcely used at all, and many small farms in other areas only used carts.

New Idea Mower

New Idea Mower

from issue:

For proper operation the outer end of the cutter bar should lead the inner end when the machine is not in operation. After long use the cutter bar may lag back and if this happens it can be corrected by making adjustments on the cutter bar eccentric bushing as follows: First making sure that the pin and bolt in the hinge casting “A” Fig. 5 are tight and in good condition.

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Since the horse is useful to man only by reason of his movements, his foot deserves the most careful attention. The horse-shoer should be familiar with all its parts. Fig. 3 shows the osseous framework of the foot, consisting of the lower end of the cannon bone, the long pastern, the two sesamoid bones, the short pastern, and the pedal bone.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Swaledale

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Swaledale

by:
from issue:

Swaledale is one of the lost British cheeses, nearly extinct, along with other more obscure farmstead cheeses which were dropped because they were not suited for mechanical cutting – too crumbly. Too much loss. I dug the basic method out of Patrick Rance’s wonderful book of British cheeses and I’ve made it for years. I love it, everybody loves it, it’s a perfect cheese for rich Jersey milk, it takes very little time and trouble to make, it’s easy to age, delicious at one month, or a year.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

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

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

by:
from issue:

Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

by:
from issue:

Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

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.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

by:
from issue:

Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

Blacksmithing

Blacksmithing

from issue:

Modern farm machinery is largely of iron and steel construction, making an equipment of metal working tools necessary if satisfactory repairs are to be made. Forging operations consist of bending, upsetting, drawing out, welding, punching, drilling, riveting, thread-cutting, hardening, tempering, and annealing. Heat makes iron soft and ductile. Practically all forging operations on iron can be done more rapidly when it is at a high heat. Steel will not stand as high a temperature.

Log Arch

Log Arch

by:
from issue:

The arch was built on a small trailer axle that I cut down to 3 feet wide and tacked back together. This was done so that I could keep the wheels parallel. I cut the middle out after construction was complete. I used heavy wall pipe from my scrounge pile for the various frame parts. It is topped off with an angle iron bar for added strength and to provide a mount for the winch and some slots for extra chains.

Shed and Barn Plans

Below is a short piece from Starting Your Farm, by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller. Click the links below to see Chapter One of Starting Your Farm and to view the book in our online bookstore. “You may have purchased a farm with a fantastic set of old barns and sheds. You, on […]

Horseshoeing Part 5B

Horseshoeing Part 5B

Hoof nurture comprises all those measures which are employed to keep hoofs healthy, elastic, and serviceable. The object of hoof nurture is to lessen or entirely remove all these injurious consequences of shoeing and stabulation. It comprises, therefore, not only the proper shortening of the hoofs every five to six weeks, but careful attention to cleanliness and moisture. Both are insured by dry straw and daily picking out and washing the hoofs.

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