Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Big Move


An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I've always loved apples, but I'm loving them now more than ever.

The bees have a home. Finally. They're in a lovely new bee yard on an apple farm. It's called City Orchards. Our bees have now moved from the country to the city. So they're now City Bees in a City Orchard. I don't think they'll mind a bit, especially after the grand and glorious sunrise on their first morning in the new bee yard. It was an omen, but a really really good one.

I pictured the bees coming sleepily to their front door wondering what all the brightness was. It would be the sun, minus the darkness of the swamp and all those trees that made the place feel cold. The sun would actually touch the hive and warm it up which will really help them as we progress through our winter season.

I worried a bit about some of the older workers just flying off in the morning without looking back, without reorienting themselves to the new location. Some advice on-line about moving hives was to block the entrance mostly but not completely with grass. As the bees notice the change they reorient before leaving. Then the grass dries up and dies.

The problem is that I'm not to reduce the entrance to the hive due to the Formic Acid treatment inside which must be ventilated. And then I forgot to ask my beekeeping friend Henry what to do about that before we parted company after packing up the hives--like asking if I should leave the window screening in the entrance to keep them in for a day or so? Instead I removed the screening hoping that the brightness of the sun, the lack of trees in front of the hive and the shiny white platform would slow them down enough to look and realize things are different so they'd reorient before going out.

Henry had told me previously that it wasn't really a problem about these older workers - really the foraging out in the field is done for the season and these bees aren't the ones that will carry the hive through the winter. But you know me, I care about all of them (probably too much). I'm already thinking that these workers will need to locate water sources for the hive, but I don't even know if they need water at this time of year.

Here's some pointers which may be helpful if you have to move hives

Things we learned in the move:

* even though you may have a check-list of all the items you need to do prior to the move, double check that all your ratchet ties are actually in the vehicle and don't assume they are still in it because you put them there 4 months ago.

* the bees don't really come out much in the move but window screening placed in the entrance allows ventilation and can prevent any angry bee from coming after you once the hive starts to move.

* Move the hives in the dark when the bees are all inside. Cold or rainy days are even better. Flashlights and backup batteries were very useful.

* If putting hives in an open truck bed, face the hive entrance to the south of your northbound vehicle so that the wind while driving will not rush inside the hive and chill the bees

* If you have the entrance facing the south (as above) then the frames will be parallel to the road. This means that if bumping and swaying, the frames will are much less likely to bang together and squish your queen.

* Duct tape can be used in place of a ratchet tie so keep duct tape on your checklist.

* Working at night is much different than the day time and paths are hard to see, things can get dropped on the ground in the dark so be prepared for some fumbling around.

* It's a good idea to either have a son or a nephew so that you have a muscular person around to lift the hive. (It's WAY cheaper to encourage your siblings to have kids instead of having them yourself).

*When lifting the hive to move it is a good time to "heft check" if your hive is heavy enough to survive the winter. For southern Ontario, 65 lbs for a single deep is the recommendation. Henry, who can tell from one lift said Hive #1 is fine and Hive #2 could use some more feeding (I'm feeding both anyway).

* Marking the front of each hive differently helped to be able to tell them apart - and set them in their new location in the same orientation.

* Use a level to check that your platform and your hives are level.

* Always buy your helpers dinner.
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