Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back split?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
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    Almond, NY, USA
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    Default Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back split?

    Each of my overwintered hives are my usual setup of 4 eight frame medium boxes, used as their permanent brood nest space. Above them I install a queen excluder, and above that the honey supers, as needed when nectar flow starts well. I have four 40 liter deep frame baited swarm traps set up at various distances (50 - 300 yards) from the hives, at spots I've caught swarms previously.

    05/22/19 - My six hives were finally taken apart for springtime hive & frame inspection. At that time, two of my hives were booming and jam-packed with bees and estimated weight was about 120-130 lbs (the other 4 hives had their typical amount for this time of year, and looked very good, estimated weight about 80-90 lbs each). The two boomers had many frames of capped brood, some open brood and lots of nectar and a generous amount of capped honey. These two hives each had two sealed brood frames with several queen cups and 2 or 3 charged (but still open swarm cells) at the bottom of these frames.

    I took each frame of sealed brood with open and charged swarm cells, plus one frame of about 50% empty drawn comb & 50% capped honey & pollen and put them into a two chamber queen castle I made from a 5 frame medium depth nuc box. I shook several frames of solid bees on sealed brood into each chamber, filling the open spaces to overflowing with bees. I placed this box on top of the hive farthest from the boomer hives.

    05/25/19 - I moved all six hives 150 yards away to their new stand & location at sundown and left the queen castle on the stand at the old location. I installed robbing screens (each had a small 3/4" wide x 1/2" high entrance notch at the two top corners) over their fully open bottom entrance, to hopefully cause them to reorient to the new location. At sunup the next morning the expected confusion was seen from the bees trying to search for the new hive exits. The few bees I saw that found the entrance after about 10-15 minutes of searching just flew away with determination, with no reorienting.

    05/27/19 - I arrived mid-morning to find the queen castle absolutely covered on all surfaces with bees, with several very large clusters next to it & below it, hanging from the stand and also on top of some large rocks beneath the stand. I immediately put two new hive setups on the old stand. Each side of the queen castle was moved into a new hive, ending up with each hive having two eight frame medium boxes with drawn comb. One chamber's swarm cell was now capped, the other was still open. I scooped and shook as many bees into the new hives as I could and put the top on. It took all day for the remaining bees to find their way into the hives, with about 2" of bearding still above the fully open entrance at 6 pm when I left. I never saw any fighting or robbing activity all day.

    The larger of the two monster hives now has the least amount of traffic in & out. The others all have the same amount as before. All are using the robbing screen entrances as if they've been on there forever...no confusion.

    I will put another box of foundation on these new hives at my next visit later this week because they are packed with bees. The nectar flow is ramping up strong now and they need more space.

    My opinion is one or both of my monster hives swarmed and claimed the queen castle at their old location as their new home...4 frames of bees became 32 frames of bees in two days, with torrential downpours alternating with light rain the morning and afternoon of the day they woke up to their new location. They overlooked the swarm traps, and I have not seen any scouts this year at the traps yet. I think it was just a coincidence of timing...move the packed hives and they swarmed just after the move, even with having to squeeze through the robbing screen small entrances.

    Another beekeeper helping me during all of this has the opinion they are all from fly back and these bees failed to reorient to their new location, and they are not from swarming.

    I'm sure there was some unintended fly back from the moved hives, but seriously...that many?

    Your opinions please?
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Yuba County, California, USA
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    6,546

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Of course a hive could have swarmed. But I do not think so. I think it's foragers flyback from 6 moved hives. Yes, seriously, that many. All foragers from 6 hives moved 150 yards away. Yep, that's what much more than likely happened.
    Live real time bee chat, most evenings...
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  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
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    2,503

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Quote Originally Posted by NY14804 View Post
    Your opinions please?
    Fly back. The queen cells’ survival and the lack of new eggs until a week after the new queens emerge will tell the tale.
    David Matlock

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Almond, NY, USA
    Posts
    136

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Quote Originally Posted by Riverderwent View Post
    The queen cells’ survival and the lack of new eggs until a week after the new queens emerge will tell the tale.
    That was my plan...inspect them in about a week from now, looking for eggs to verify if a mated queen had traveled with them.

    Thank you RayMarler & Riverderwent for your quick responses!
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    5,534

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Robber screens are not very effective as reorientation prompts.

    I do not think your (moved) hives swarmed and selected the old location as their new home. They just flew back to the old location. In other words, I think the queens in the moved hives are not likely now at the old location crowding out the development of the new colonies.

    If the moved hives have actually swarmed they are likely elsewhere, if not in your swarm traps. (Some people have luck trapping their own swarms, but I don't think it is as effective as it is hoped to be - more happenstance than anything.)

    Is seems to me that you have one too-many manipulations bumping into each other here. If you wanted to do fly-back splits as a swarm-management tactic, then that should have been done without the added move of the parent colonies so far away. Once the splits "took", i.e. the two new ones had acquired enough bees and settled down in earnest to raise themselves new queens, and once the parent colonies had released some bees, but not all of the oriented ones, to the splits and they had shown evidence of having settled down out of their swarm preps, then you could have moved the parent hives that to the new location as a separate goal (if that was your intent), with more effective reorientation prompts in place and the use of a left behind box (See Michael Bush's very useful instructions on that score).

    And as process suggestion: despite the dismal weather of this season waiting until May 22 for the first sort through after winter, was probably asking for trouble re swarming. (Note I am in upstate NY, too.) Earlier inspections and interventions might have kept the two ones that were showing swarm signs (charged cells) from needing to be split at the same time as the move. Please don't be offended at this suggestion - I only manged to get in my hives around the same time, too, this year. And I have fewer excuses since I live at the same place as my hives, which it sounds like you don't. But I made notes to myself (as in the Face Palm and Slap Forehead type of notes) that I needed to manage my bee work a bit better next year in order to not have too many urgent things that must be done simultaneously.

    Nancy

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Almond, NY, USA
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    136

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Nancy - Thanks for your comments! I have enjoyed your previous insightful postings (especially about upstate NY beekeeping issues) and no offense was taken at all to your comments, so no problems there.

    For all, here's the background info: Originally last week's plan was to just inspect the hives' progress, clean the bottom boards and move the hives to their new location. Moving the hives was the priority, due to property neighbors' and visiting grand-kids' concerns last year. I've been waiting (to move them) for 5-6 weeks for the weather to cooperate and the ground to dry out enough so my transporting pickup truck wouldn't get stuck in the wet clay farm field soil. It's impossible to do this when the ground has been squishy and saturated with water for this long! 5-6 days of rain every week with high winds and cold temperatures the last month or so were not helping.

    I had no intentions of splitting hives and I wasn't going to try & prevent swarming.

    I wasn't going to leave a box for any fly back bees either, much to the disagreement of my beekeeping helper and most beekeepers. I planned to let the bees that failed to reorient figure it out that the hives were moved and they could go searching for them. Having a box there may have been too much encouragement for them to stay.

    The nuc-size double chamber queen castle came into play at the last moment, after discovering the swarm cells. My beekeeping helper has two very recently queenless hives and we decided if we saw numerous swarm cells during inspection that we would put some of them in the split nuc to let them hatch and get mated in my apiary area before transporting any of their new laying queens (new nucs) 72 miles back to his home.

    I've never had any known problems of my bees reorienting when previously blocking the entrance using small branches of white cedar they had to work there way through.
    This was my test to see if robbing screens would force a reorientation and it did work somewhat, as there is still plenty of traffic in & out of the moved hives. They also had many frames of capped brood who will only know the new hive location shortly. Who can say for sure the massive fly back wouldn't have happened if I used my usual cedar branches instead?

    I don't want or need more than my existing 6 hives this year. I hope the two possible swarm cell hives succeed for my friend's sake and use. We're just taking advantage of the bonus situation that presented itself.

    I will keep adding drawn comb to the two new hives now filled with old foragers to have them fill them with honey, again looking at it as an unexpected bonus while they die off over the next few weeks.
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Well, just to clarify,the idea of a Left-Behind box is just a temporary bivouac for confused bees and just for a few days. You put it out only in the late afternoon (or right before inclement weather) when the bees are at risk of dying from exposure if they can't find their way back home.

    This is what Michael Bush describes, and I have taken his excellent idea and enlarged on it slightly.

    He suggests just putting it out in the late afternoon, and then moving it after dark (when any confused bees may have entered it) by hand carrying it to the new location and leaving it nose to nose with moved hive.

    I always have substantial reorientation prompts (i.e. a shipping pallet with evergreen branches woven through it) leaning against the front of my moved hives so placing a box nose-to-nose in the dark always seemed too fraught with problems.

    I solve this by installing a bee escape board at the top of the moved hived. I actually install it before moving the hive so I can leave it in place for a few days w/o opening the hive shortly after it has been moved, when fewer bees will have oriented on the new location.

    Then late in the afternoon of the first day after the move, I set a box on a temp base at the old location and leave it to see if it "catches" any confused bees. After dark I take the box to the new location and open the lid of the moved hive and simply plunk the Left Behind box on top of the bee escape board and let the bees figure out how to rejoin their sisters below. In the morning, I remove it and set it aside near where I will deploy it again that afternoon. Usually it only takes a couple of days before any hub-bub at the old location to die down and no bees will be in the Left-Behind box, so you can stop doing that.

    It works like a charm, in my experience. I move my hives 50 to 300 feet fairly frequently as they winter all bunched together on a single stand and then in the spring I separate them again. (Most years, some busy years find them in September exactly where they were the previous March.)

    One difference between my moving technique and MB's is that I now always carry the moved hive in a single strapped-together-six-ways-to-Sunday unit. (Four ratchets: two around the hive and second pair around the hive but with enough slack to accept the huge hook on a tow chain wrapped around the bucket.) We suspend it from the bucket of our farm tractor and my husband has gotten so skilled that he can lift a five deep hive and shift it around so lightly that the bees never know they're traveling around until they look out their front entrance the first time. This also allows all the bees to be moved at once with no confused stragglers en route. Usually we move just after dark, so they wake up in the new location. I trot along side steadying the hive so it doesn't get to swinging around as we clamber up hill and down.

    Nancy

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Butler Co, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    446

    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    Fly back definitely. Congrats, you definitely delayed swarming from 6 hives, as they now have little to no nectar coming in. They will be fine again in a week or so, as more bees get assigned foraging duties and orient to the new spot.

    I did virtually the same thing with a friends triple deep hive. They had swarm cells and were close to flying. Set the top 2 boxes (with the queen) in a new spot, bottom box with swarm cell or 2 stayed in same location. Placed a medium super with only foundation on top. By the next day, the original location hive was packed with bees.

    After 3 weeks, we found brood, a new queen, and a fully drawn medium full of honey being capped. The queen right section had no signs of swarming intentions, or break in brood indicating they had swarmed, and had just began drawing comb in their super at the 3 week mark.
    Hindsight is 20/10, not 20/20...
    After the fact, I always know what didn't work.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Moved hives 150 yards, resulted in failed reorientation or unintended fly back sp

    I would not have installed robber screens at the same time as moving them. They are confusing to the bees as it is, but a move combined with adding them would be very confusing. The old field bees will fly back to the old location until they die, but if you get them to reorient, they will fly back to the old location and then turn and go to the new location. If you want to get the confused bees back to the new location, put the box out near dark after they have had to look for the new location. Then move that box after dark right next to the new location. The next morning you can shake them out in front of the new location.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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