We moved some horizontal Top Bar Hives today, partly because they were a bit visible from the road and there has been an increase in vandalism in this neighbourhood.
There is a well known adage that you must move a hive “less then 3 feet or more than 3 miles or the bees will be unable to find it on returning”. But we moved these hives about 80 metres and used a trick to force the bees to re-orient when they exit: there is a maze of branches in front of the entrances (see picture). The bees can no longer zoom straight out without noticing the hive has moved, they are forced to stop and think!
A few other points to note about the hive move:
- The hive entrances are (still) pointing South East to ensue the bees can warm themselves in the morning sun and start flying early. Ideally, one wants comb orientation to remain the same.
- It is important to make sure top bar hives are level. (With framed hives, you generally tip them slightly towards the entrance so condensation runs out.) There is a spirit level on top of the right hand hive.
- It is best to move hives when bees are not flying, so you don’t lose foragers. We did this on a cold day, about 4C. We temporarily sealed the entrances just in case.
- There are part-slabs in front of the hives. Their purpose is to monitor how many bodies are being thrown out of the colonies – it is pretty difficult to see dead bees on our colour of soil.
- There is a water source nearby and this area has been recently cleared, we will sow plenty of suitable flowers!
- Because of the winter weather, the bees are confined in the hive. Bees inside a hive for 3 days will re-orient when they emerge and you can make a move like this in one go (so the twigs may not be necessary in winter, but we were not sure what our weather would be like over the next few days). Once Spring arrives and they are flying every day, you would be better moving a hive 1 metre a day.