6 Tips for Moving BeehivesMinimize yours (and your bees') stress.
If you’re a beekeeper, then you know the pains and joys of maintaining your beehives and caring for your bees. Occasionally, situations will arise where you will need to move your beehives from their current location. For those looking to move their hives, the move will require a lot of advance research and planning. Keep these six tips for moving beehives in mind for a successful move that minimizes yours (and your bees’) stress.
1. Know About Bee Behavior
First things first, thoroughly understand your bees and how they orient themselves to their hives. This is important because, if you don’t take this into account, you will end up with lost bees. Bees have a radius of 3-5 miles, but moving anything more than 3 feet at a time can confuse forager bees if the proper precautions aren’t taken. For larger moves, bees will need to reorient themselves to the hive location. They use landmarks for finding their way back and, if the hive entrance appears different, they will reorient rather than return to the original location.
2. Prepare the Bees
Getting the bees ready for the move is going to be based on the distance of the trip. If it is a long distance that is over three miles away, you will need to take more precautions to secure the bees to the hive so that they all make the move with you. Trigger their need to reorient. To do this, prior to your move, use sticks and branches at the hive entrance to change up the look of the location. Secure screens for the hive entrances after nightfall, since most of the bees will have returned to the hive for the night.
3. Prioritize Safety (for You and the Bees!)
A beekeeper can really get to know and love these fascinating creatures, but it doesn’t change the fact that they sting! Safety should always be a priority when relocating beehives. The move can upset the bees, so keep your beekeeping gear maintained for holes or tears. Even after the hives are contained, always wear your suit in case of a bee leak. Also, for the move, you want to make sure the hives are secure and padded with cushioning for the bumps in the move. If the crates or hives break, a lot of agitated bees will get out.
4. Gather the Necessary Tools
Have all your tools handy and ready to go to ensure a quick and simple transport. Have ratchet straps to secure the beehives and use screening for enclosing the bees and allow for plenty of ventilation. Carry a big flashlight with back-ups for visibility at night. A smoker is useful for calming aggression in the bees and a water spray bottle is handy for spraying the screens to cool the bees off. It helps to travel using a bee trailer that provides plenty of ventilation (especially in Florida) to avoid losing bees to overheating.
5. Plan the Haul
Beehives can be heavy and it is no small feat to lift them onto your method of transport to the new location. Find a simple and safe method of loading to avoid hurting yourself or the hives in the process. A hydraulic bed on the truck or even a forklift can make the lifting and shifting easier. Traveling with a trailer can simplify this as you can just roll a dolly up the trailer ramp. Recruit fellow beekeepers to lend a hand, but keep in mind that you should return the favor!
6. Plan to Move at Night
In the daytime, temperatures can creep up to dangerous levels for the bees. Also, with more people on the road, you risk traffic and higher chances for accidents. A longer trip from traffic can also be dangerous for the bees. The dark of nighttime is harder to see what you are doing, but there are fewer variables to throw you out of control. Daytime is the bees’ natural foraging time, so moving at night won’t disrupt their natural need to leave the hive and will help ensure that you aren’t leaving any bees behind.
Neither you or your bees will ever be happy about moving the hives but, with plenty of research and careful planning, you’ll all get through it with minimal agitation and stress. Follow these tips for moving beehives and invest in (or rent) a high-quality bee trailer to ensure that you and your bees arrive at their new destination as safely as possible.