Or The Bees Move House..
As responsible beekeepers as well as obviously looking after our winged charges, we have to keep one eye on neighbourly relations. When we first sited the bees on the allotment there were plenty of spare plots still, especially around the bees own plot and everyone lived in harmony and our bees were welcomed. But.. situations change. Now all the spare plots are in use by families and there is even rumour of a waiting list.
Yesterday it was clear during a routine inspection of one of the hives by Steve, that the bees were starting to get a bit territorial and could potentially bother fellow gardeners. This would set back the Bee's PR machine somewhat, which we were very keen to avoid. The last thing we would wish, is for people to not feel comfortable or safe tending their plots.
We work as a team; me, Tim, Steve and Lynne with Steve's longer beekeeping experience making him Head Beekeeper. So after a long discussion - ok in the pub but still... it was decided that the bees needed to be moved to an area where they could be grumpy if they wished, but without bothering anyone not in a beesuit and equipped to deal with them. Steve and Lynne live on a farm and since farms these days are eco friendly they'd had discussions with the farmer as far back as last year about suitable places for hives. We decided to act on this kind permission and set up an apiary with all the allotment hives being moved to it in one go. Its on a quiet and private part of the farm with no public access so really out of the way.
If you want to move bees then it has to be done once they've tucked themselves up for the night but of course whilst there is light for you to see what you're doing. So we all met at the allotment at 7pm just as the temperature was starting to drop and the sun was thinking of setting.
The photos show the process but I'll explain them as we go along. First of all you have to secure the hives. Their entrances are blocked up with simple foam just to stop them coming out to see what we're up to and because no one wants a car full of bees! Then the hives are strapped up securely to prevent the various boxes from coming apart, again with disastrous results. This is the most important part of the process and its all checked very thoroughly.
Then happy that the bees are safe (and so are we) they get loaded in to cars. Luckily we all have 4wd chunky cars. This is our national hive securely in the back of my car.
Steve and Lynne loaded their two main hives in the back of their car in the same way. The only hive that was more awkward was their top bar hive. This is a different way of beekeeping - more naturalistic and the hive is on long legs which doesn't readily fit in to boot spaces. So it needed a trailer of its own and a lot of strapping!
So off we all set. Lots of careful, slow driving to their new home. Perfect nice clear evening for a tricky job. Once we got to their new site its all about reversing the process. So the hives are carefully set on to their paving slab bases and orientation is thought of. We've tried to set them so that once the bees woke up this morning they would notice instantly that their hives were facing a different direction and therefore something important had changed. Foam blocks were removed but we've left the straps on for now as being a much more rural spot, there might be danger from predators like badgers who could knock a hive over.
At last they looked settled in their new home. Its a lovely spot with pretty trees already starting to blossom.
Honey-filled SPARK bee hives
1 day ago