Moving hives in the winter
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Tuckerton, NJ USA
    Posts
    93

    Default Moving hives in the winter

    I have five hives, two Nucs and three double deep hives, at an out yard. Unfortunately I have to move the hives from the sight before spring. Probably in the next couple of weeks.

    Here in Jersey winter has set in, hives are broodless and clustered up but we still get the occasional flying temps.

    How detrimental will it be to move the bees this time of year?

    Anything I can do to lessen the impact on the bees?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Bucks County PA
    Posts
    347

    Default Re: Moving hives in the winter

    I would think that you can just carefully move them and be sure to provide some "interference" at the entrance(s) so that when they do get that occasional day warm enough to fly, they will be forced to re-orient immediately. We use a bunch of cut grass or bush trimmings for that purpose. We use that technique successfully for even very short moves...in fact, we have one colony that we need to do this to soon because of a tree that needs to come down.
    Humble assistant to beek Alison as well as family purveyor of luxury Bee condominiums and Paparazzi activities...

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,525

    Default Re: Moving hives in the winter

    The main risk is this: that during the move the cluster is disturbed and falls or is jounced apart. If that happens on a day when the air temps are too cold to allow the bees to reform it before they are too chilled to move around, then you could lose the hive.

    So make your move on a warmish day. For instance up here in Albany, next Friday and into Saturday the temps will be in the 40's to nearly 50 F, so probably even warmer where you are. I would risk a move then, because at 50, they can move around. I would make the move at the start of the warm up on the first day to give them the longest period of better-than-expected temperatures to settle themselves back down. Look at your forecast and choose a day. (Friday promises to be warm, but rainy, but precip is only a human factor in this case.)

    I would take some trouble to prevent chilling during the move from air being forced through them. In other words, I would arrange them in the vehicle with their backs to the forward travel direction. If I could carry them in a closed vehicle, a van, small truck, etc., I might opt for that depending on the length of the trip and air temps during it.

    Another tactic I have used is having a way that, on arrival, I temporarily add some heat to the inside of the hive. I have used microwaved gel heating pads (the kind you would use to treat a physical injury) slipped into the stack and allowed to cool off. I have double bottom boards (solid under screen) so I just slip them in through the sticky board access slot. I rotate them out for repeated runs through the microwave when the pads start to cool off. I have thought of, but never actually used, a hair dryer blown gently in under the screen board, as well. (I have power in my yard, so this is easy for me.) If you use insulation that might help, too, as well as temporary restriction (only for the first few hours after the move) on the upper entrance to hold the warmed air in as they settle back into their cluster.

    As always of course, use more ratchet straps than you think you need to prevent any dislocation of the boxes during the move (especially important in cold weather). I typically lift/move hives suspended from the bucket of a tractor, so I use a pair of straps to hold the stack together, and a second pair for doing the hoist itself. The first pair stays in place until arrival, but the hoisting pair can be moved from hive to hive if I am short of straps. I would also screen off all entrances before they get active on the day of the move. No need to lose bees, or have any issues with crabby ones while doing the move.

    I think you won't have much trouble with re-orientation provided they are moved some distance away. I once moved hives about 400 feet in early winter, and despite robust re-orientation prompts over the entrances AND weather that kept them in the hive for an additional five or six weeks, on the first warmish day a lot of them flew back to the old location and perished in the snow before I realized what was happening.

    The main thing is finding a day with suitable temps. Bees are moved out of the north to the south all the time, but that works because on arrival the temps allow them to reform their cluster. Busting up a cluster, during a move in temps where they become too-chilled to move together again is the main risk. At 40 F , they don't have much time before they become cold-stunned into immobility.

    Nancy

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Tuckerton, NJ USA
    Posts
    93

    Default

    Thanks for the info everyone. I’ll aim to move the hives Friday. Temps should be in the mid 50’s I’m going to move them about 10 miles away so reorientation shouldn’t be a problem.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,525

    Default Re: Moving hives in the winter

    Sounds good! Just get them closed up the night before (or early in the morning) so you don't lose bees that fly out before the move.

    Nancy

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    camden, tennessee, USA
    Posts
    302

    Default Re: Moving hives in the winter

    Moving a few to a new out yard in a few weeks so this is all good information. Thanks to all.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,786

    Default Re: Moving hives in the winter

    After Christmas and far below zero in the 1970's, I used to help load semi's, throwing on singles; on their way to texas for wintering and dividing four or five ways. The ones not taken were shaken out in the snowbank or had been gassed with cyanide earlier. No one from North Dakota went to the almonds then.

    I think I would watch the weather forecast and move them the night before that flying day was forecast to give the moved colony a chance to reorganize if necessary.

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