Ever since we did our Warré apiary design, we’ve been waiting to move the hives to their new hive stands. But we needed to wait till the depth of winter to do it, when the bees have stopped flying and are safe and warm in their hives. So last Sunday was the day!
Together, Tim Malfroy and Nick carefully prepared and then moved moved both our current warré hives to their new hardwood stands… and this is how they did it: Before moving each hive, Tim double-strapped the hive together tightly, and placed a screen across the entranceway to prevent any bees flying out in the unlikely event of the hive being dropped during the move.
While this isn’t the ultimate technique for closing off the entrance, it’s good enough, especially as we weren’t moving the hives far and no bees are flying at this time of year in our climate.
All packed up, double strapped, and ready to move.
We placed a long, thin strip of wood under the back edge of the hive (about 5mm high). This ensures that the hive tilts forward very slightly, which means that any condensation that pools in the baseboard will drain out the hive entrance, and not pool in the hive to create potential problems caused by too much moisture.
The last step in the process was to strap the hive TO the stand… this ensures that the actions of passing humans, animals etc won’t cause the hive to shift position, ensuring great stability for the hive and the colony within.
Once the first hive was sorted, we started on the second and repeated the process…
Two hives moved to their new stands without incident. Yay Tim!
Just to reiterate, the reason we could move the hives like this is because our winters get sufficiently cold. Once the daytime temp consistently drops below 13-15 degrees Celsius, the honeybees stop flying, and stay in their hives until warmer weather (ie early spring).
Bees navigate to and from their hive via a series of processes which pinpoint the hive location precisely in space. Move the hive’s location a meter left in a day during foraging season, and you will seriously affect the ability of the majority of foraging honeybees to find their way home.
Moving the hive at night doesn’t get you out of jail either. The spatial territory map in the foraging bees’ head will still mean they get very confused if you move ground zero (ie their hive) too far, too fast.
If you do need to move the hive during foraging season, the rule of thumb for natural beekeeping is no more than a foot per day. This ‘rift in space’ is apparently the maximum you can make and expect all the bees to find their way home.
However, in a climate as cold (or colder) than ours, in winter the bees stop flying all together for a period of months. Over this time they go broodless (don’t raise baby bees) and generally hang out in the hive, staying warm and living off the vaulted ceiling of honey above them that they’ve stored for this time of year.
After such a winter, each spring the colony sends out scout bees on a series of navigation flights before the main foraging core of honeybees start regularly leaving the hive. This in effect ‘re-sets’ the position of the hive for that season, as far as the navigation of the bees are concerned.
If we didn’t have such cold winters, we’d have to step the hives across to the stands, moving them at about a foot per week, always making sure the new interim position was level, with good drainage etc. It would be a long and tricky business, hence our decision to wait till winter and do it this way.
The hives on their new stands, facing N/E to catch the morning sun, protected by earthworks and plantings from the south to the north, as per our Warré apiary design.
The hive stands are going to be great come spring, when we’ll split these two existing colonies to create 4 hives, with two per stand. The middle space on the stands will provide workspace for placing boxes during hive checks and harvesting.
Thanks to Tim Malfroy for making time after the Mudgee Field Days to come to Milkwood Farm, help us move the hives and talk bees for 24 hours straight. I’m still buzzing!
If you’d like to come a learn the craft of Warré beekeeping, either at our apiary or in Sydney, you can!
Or if you are far away, check out our natural beekeeping resources for heaps of good books, hive plans, forums etc on this subject.