Beekeepers eventually find themselves moving hives as operational conditions mandate. Reasons may include:
- Adverse environmental conditions
- Relocation of newly created splits/nucs
- Migratory beekeeping / pollination services
- Bee yard consolidations
These scenarios come to play more often when a beekeeper grows operations from five hives to sideline and commercial ventures. Beekeepers can and will benefit by moving hives:
- If you know when and where certain areas will be in bloom, you might move your hives to that location in order to capitalize on the available resource (pollination services).
- If you split your hives to prevent them from swarming or to create “increase”, moving the newly created split/Nuc away from the original hive location can prevent bees from returning to originating hives.
- If your hives are not doing well in their current location due to pesticide issues or lack of forage
4. If hives drop out during the year due to queen failures or other issues, consolidation of bee yards will reduce labor and fuel expenses while improving operational efficiency.
When moving hives, it is best to start at dusk, or close to sunset. By that time most, if not all of the bees will be back inside the hives from daily foraging activities. A honey bee navigates by using sunlight, so they don’t like to fly in the dark. Bees may exit the hive if alarmed (you ARE picking up their house after all), but they won’t go far. They will be drawn to your body heat or another nearby stationary object once they exit the hive. Don’t freak out if you end up with lots of bees all over you.
Since our hives are located in dense native ranch cover with less than favorable roads and lots of switchbacks and low water crossings, we use an EZYLoader crane mounted to the deck of our bee truck (a 16’ flatbed with a wooden deck. This crane allows us to pick up one hive at a time from a pallet and raise it onto the deck using a cradle with forks that slide under the bottom board of the hive. Moving full pallets with a forklift is also an option if the terrain and bee yard locations allow and is often used by migratory beekeepers in pollination scenarios. The slower, more arduous method of breaking down each hive by hand, loading it on a truck with a bee-handcart and then unloading the same way is also an option.