Hive moving: usually it goes well

This week we moved some hives from Marrickville to our Randwick apiary sites – we’re talking big hives full of lots of healthy bees and quite heavy.

I have a hive cradle that makes things easy; it’s a design that gives you a large handle on the front and back of the hive and makes it quite easy to carry a heavy hive, without having to bend to pick it up from the bottom and having your fingers slip off the bottom board.

Anyway it all went well with the new hives installed and happy in their new location.

Next came a move in the Hunter Valley, ostensibly a much easier move of two 8-frame hives about 5 kms. I got up there and checked the destination location first. We decided on a good spot a little elevated up a bank to keep them out of the fog.

I waited until dark and headed to the hives.  I have a moving screen that fits on the front of 8- or 10-frame boxes and allows the bees to ventilate the hive.  So the first step was to walk up to the first hive and whack it on with a bit of gaffer tape and a ratchet strap.

I went to to do the same thing with the second hive but it had a handle on the front that blocked the screen and by now the bees were onto me and started investigating who was banging on the hive… time to leave them alone for a bit.

So I put on the bee gear I had brought with me which was a face veil. I zipped up my polar fleece to keep the bees out and went in with a smoker and some gaffer tape to tape them in.  Most went inside and I taped them up.

The hives were three boxes high and didn’t fit in my car so they were going into the recipients’ jeep. We loaded them in but there wasn’t anything to strap them to.  They’ll be fine, I said… I was to regret that decision.

Off we headed and it was apparent pretty quickly that the rough road was going to cause some problems.  At the first big bump the hives rocked and the screen popped off releasing the bees into the jeep. I marched in in my polar fleece and tried to strap them down while my friends got their gear sorted – they were going to be driving a car full of bees. A number of stings later we headed off at a very slow pace and after a few tense moments arrived at the destination.

It was then that the folly of clambering up a cliff face in the dark hauling bee hives became fully apparent. We did our best with the first hive – thankfully it was the fully sealed one and the heaviest of the two.

The next one was a) lighter, but b) covered in annoyed bees so it was a much more difficult operation to get it up there without screaming “the bees, the bees!” and running away.  But we succeeded.  I discovered that you should always wear loose jeans as a number of bees worked out that my jeans were tight in unpleasant places where you should never get stung.

I suggested that they leave the jeep’s door open and sure enough, in the morning many escaped bees had found the hive.  There was also a handful of cold ones that once they got a bit of sun headed for their new home.

So the lesson learnt was moving bees is always full of surprises and always take all your gear with you. A polar fleece is no substitute for a bee suit.


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