Before we moved into the farm, the bee hives were all over the place, generally within spitting distance of the house. (Check out the vines working their way across the porch in this photo.)
They simply had to be moved to a nice little apiary – or at least the 23 hives that were too close for comfort had to. The problem is you can’t move hive boxes a few meters or the bees return to the old location and sit around scratching their heads trying to figure out what happened to their home. You need to move the hives a few kilometers away, then back to their new position after a couple of weeks when they’ve forgotten their old stomping ground. If the move is far enough so they don’t recognise the area, they study the terrain and reset their homing beacon (or whatever it is). If they do recognise the area, they go back to where the hive was when they last paid attention. There is also the (highly impractical for 23 boxes) option of moving each hive 1 meter each day until you manage to move them the distance you’d originally planned.
Our hives had to move 75 meters or thereabouts so first, off they went to a field in the nearby university…
7 weeks later, in a night-time operation, back they came, safe and sound (if a little flustered) to the new apiary which is a good distance from our back porch. (Ah, the vines are gone.)
Here they are in the new apiary.
We’re a bit of a worried about a few of the hives. Some are very light and some had piles of dead bees out front. All definitely have small hive beetle infestations. There is a lot of work to be done to get them back to health. Bruce, the apiarist in charge, will come out next week, once the bees have settled after their move, and we’ll start opening boxes. Until then, Frank and I will level the boxes (they were plunked into the mud – of course the first rain we’ve had in weeks happened to come mid-move) and watch.
Hopefully they’ll settle in quickly and will stop landing all over their hives and find their way in and out quickly. I wonder how many bees are changing hives in this confusion?