bee

Moving House

When we first set up the hive, it had to be away from the house because we were replacing the roof and the solar panels on the south side of the house had to come down before the roof could be put on. So we put the hive on the North side of the yard, facing South to catch the sun in the entrance on most days.

But the entrance also faced the biggest part of our backyard lawn, and the flight path for the bees was right over the grassy area where all the kids would play if we had a party again in our backyard. So we had to move the hive.

There is and old beekeeper's adage that says, "You can move a hive ten feet or ten miles."


If the whole thing is moved ten miles from the start point, the bees have to just start over again. All the landmarks and landscape has completely changed, so the bees start out by reorienting themselves. If the hive only moves ten feet, it's still within sight of the original site, so the bees can find it, no problem.

The real problem with not moving it a great distance but moving it out of direct sight of the old location is that the bees have in their little neural bundles all the memories of the neighborhood all pointing toward where their home used to be. So they almost always go back to where the hive used to be instead of where the hive now is. They just leave the hive in the morning and go directly to where it was when they come back.

And it's a lot more than ten feet across our yard... so I went to the internets to look things up and to see what other beekeepers had done. The interesting thing was that I'd been going to a number of the Boulder County Beekeepers meetings back when I was first learning all of this, and I remembered a lady talking about putting branches across the entrance to simulate the idea that, perhaps, the hive had fallen with its tree to the ground and, therefore, had changed its location.



So that's what I did. When all the girls were in the hive (but for a few that were hanging out on the front porch, which immediately went into the hive when John applied smoke to the entrance) after dark, John and I just stuck a board over the front entrance and we hefted the whole thing between us and walked the two boxes over the yard to where I wanted to put it.

None of the girls got mad, none of them popped out of the crack between the boxes. Nothing much happened other than getting it into its new location. Then we put a bunch of Blue Spruce branches in front of the entrance (you can kind of see them in the picture) to block it so that the girls would have a harder time getting out and would take a look around when they did to see how things had changed.

I was kind of anxious about them. And when a whole cloud of bees hung around the old site the whole next morning, I really had to fight down my disappointment and dread. It was a sunny day, warm and without wind, so the lost girls would be all right. The theory is that when they figure out that the hive isn't where they expect it to be, they start to circle further and further out until they find a hive, and then they'll do their best to join that one. Given that my hive was probably the closest one from the old site, they should, theoretically, end up back where they were supposed to be.

I distracted myself for most of the day, and finally in the evening, I went back out to see how many had lost their way... and there were very few left at the old site. Maybe a dozen or two... so I built a super full with frames, a cardboard top, and the summer screen bottom board, and I put it down where the old hive used to be. All the bees immediately landed and marched inside. When it was full dark, John and I went out, picked up the super and put it on top of the hive where it now sits.

This morning, there was a cloud of orienting bees in front of the hive where it now is. They were all doing the orienting flight thing outside, and there were far fewer bees hovering by the old site. It was working...

There was another beekeepers' site that said that it would take them three days to figure it out, but that they would figure it out. It seems to be working. I'm so glad. I'll probably put the rescue box back in the old spot again, tonight, just so that the ones that haven't found their way before dark have a safe place to be until tomorrow, when we'll try it again and move them back. The site suggested that three days would be enough, and it seems like it's working.

So we should, eventually, be able to have parties in our backyard again. Yay!!

Tags:
Very very happy. The baby bees are coming out now and orienting beautifully. It's so fun to see them do that... and they're so intent that I can just just crouch by the hive to watch them and they don't pay any attention to me. It's wonderful.