When (time of year) to move hives
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  1. #1
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    Default When (time of year) to move hives

    I have a couple of hives that I need to move by spring-ish. They are in a location that was not well chosen, as they fly through the pathway to the garden. They are not an urgent problem (they haven't stung anyone), but my wife asked that I move them "by spring."

    I will move them a minimum of 50 feet, and maybe as much as 500 feet or so, depending on where I decide to put them. They are still active, and the population is high. They are heavy with winter stores.

    When would you move them? I am thinking late winter, before activity picks up? They will be lighter, and who knows, they may not even survive until then. But what would be best, the least disruption, for the colony?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    You can move them any time that is best for you. However, I prefer to move them in the dead of winter. With the bees happily clustered in the hive, they will not bother you while moving them and every bee will be home. My only recommendation is to get the new site ready now, while the weather is good.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    You can move them any time that is best for you. However, I prefer to move them in the dead of winter. With the bees happily clustered in the hive, they will not bother you while moving them and every bee will be home. My only recommendation is to get the new site ready now, while the weather is good.
    Thanks for the reminder to get the new site ready!

    The problem with "dead of winter" is that there might be 3 feet of snow! But, then of course, I could always at that time decide to wait a bit. Either way, the answer is likely "not now."

    Thanks for the input.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    ........, I prefer to move them in the dead of winter.........
    This is the worst possible time to move in my region for many reasons and best avoided/postponed if at all possible.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    This is the worst possible time to move in my region for many reasons and best avoided/postponed if at all possible.
    Not "questioning" your statement, why is that the case?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by bushpilot View Post
    Not "questioning" your statement, why is that the case?
    OK, Upper-Midwest mid-winter moves means:
    - very fragile combs due to freezing cold - chances of combs breaking collapsing during the move are high (and consequences are ugly) - plastic foundation, if used, is an advantage here;
    - unlike in virtually subtropical Seattle, disturbing a cluster by a move in sub-freezing temps may end up a fatal event - they will NOT be able to regroup and just freeze scattered all over
    - also, the disturbed cluster may, ESPECIALLY in the second half of the winter, end up with diarrhea (depending how full they are) which in turn may kill the colony; again, unable to fly out, they will scatter within the hive, poop all over, and freeze scattered.

    These are just few very obvious issues, without thinking too far.
    People have done it up here successfully (the mid-winter moves) but only due to having no other choices and with extreme precautions and a bit of luck involved.

    Moving the bees mid-winter up here (the Rust Belt) is one bad idea - except in emergencies.
    Similar regions are similar in that, I imagine.

    PS: moving a hive just a few steps with precautions is different - obviously;
    best avoided too, but a totally different project vs. moving the hives long-distance;
    for you - I would move them when they can fly - this is means temps are warm enough for the bees to regroup, to fly out and poop, combs are not too fragile;
    I would choose early spring - when the hives should be lighter - in anticipation of a nice flying day where they could safely fly out after the move, if they need to
    Last edited by GregV; 08-26-2019 at 10:07 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    OK, Upper-Midwest mid-winter moves means:
    - very fragile combs due to freezing cold - chances of combs breaking collapsing during the move are high (and consequences are ugly) - plastic foundation, if used, is an advantage here;
    - unlike in virtually subtropical Seattle, disturbing a cluster by a move in sub-freezing temps may end up a fatal event - they will NOT be able to regroup and just freeze scattered all over
    - also, the disturbed cluster may, ESPECIALLY in the second half of the winter, end up with diarrhea (depending how full they are) which in turn may kill the colony; again, unable to fly out, they will scatter within the hive, poop all over, and freeze scattered.

    These are just few very obvious issues, without thinking too far.
    People have done it up here successfully (the mid-winter moves) but only due to having no other choices and with extreme precautions and a bit of luck involved.

    Moving the bees mid-winter up here (the Rust Belt) is one bad idea - except in emergencies.
    Similar regions are similar in that, I imagine.

    PS: moving a hive just a few steps with precautions is different - obviously;
    best avoided too, but a totally different project vs. moving the hives long-distance;
    for you - I would move them when they can fly - this is means temps are warm enough for the bees to regroup, to fly out and poop, combs are not too fragile;
    I would choose early spring - when the hives should be lighter - in anticipation of a nice flying day where they could safely fly out after the move, if they need to
    My weather is similar to yours, so I expect my issues would be similar to yours. Also, as I said, they might just be dead by then, making it a non-issue. I am leaning towards late winter-early spring, somewhere in that grey band.

    Thank you.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    I don't know if it's relevant to your own situation, but I'm in the process of moving a fair number of colonies right now. Most are mating nucs (full-sized frames) in which the queen didn't make it, but there are a few full-sized hives as well. It's all about combining colonies, rather than relocating for other reasons.

    What I do is move each box 18" to 24" every 2 flying days. It's a slow but sure method. By starting the process in August, a fair distance can be covered before winter arrives.

    Nuc boxes are easy enough to handle, but with such frequent moves in mind I like to put some wheels under the bigger boxes - sack barrows or similar.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Commercial guys must laugh every time they see something like this. If you move them this time of year in the same yard close the hive for three days. Then the bees will reorient themselves. Wait until it stays under 50 degrees and it no problem. Why do you keep saying if they survive? Feed them up with sugar water and pollen sub after you take your honey supers off.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by mbear View Post
    Commercial guys must laugh every time they see something like this. If you move them this time of year in the same yard close the hive for three days. Then the bees will reorient themselves. Wait until it stays under 50 degrees and it no problem. Why do you keep saying if they survive? Feed them up with sugar water and pollen sub after you take your honey supers off.
    You don't lose any colonies over winter? I lose a few, probably about average. That is with feeding and mite management, of course. That is a topic for another day, though.

    Thanks for the input.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    I don't know if it's relevant to your own situation, but I'm in the process of moving a fair number of colonies right now. Most are mating nucs (full-sized frames) in which the queen didn't make it, but there are a few full-sized hives as well. It's all about combining colonies, rather than relocating for other reasons.

    What I do is move each box 18" to 24" every 2 flying days. It's a slow but sure method. By starting the process in August, a fair distance can be covered before winter arrives.

    Nuc boxes are easy enough to handle, but with such frequent moves in mind I like to put some wheels under the bigger boxes - sack barrows or similar.
    LJ
    Thanks, I don't see that working in my case. My land is not conducive to that procedure, neither is my wife.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by bushpilot View Post
    Thanks, I don't see that working in my case. My land is not conducive to that procedure, neither is my wife.
    3 feet or 3 miles , if time to do it 2 times is not an issue, take them somewhere out of their current fly zone, friend, family member , etc. in 3 weeks or so bring them back to where you want. If too heavy, can do this in the spring as well.
    GG

  14. #13
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    I can see why Greg would think that moving them in the middle of winter would be a bad idea but I was not recommending you move them with 3 feet of snow on the ground or if it is 10 degrees below zero. I would hope you would use a little common sense. There are days in the winter when there is not snow on the ground or freezing temperatures. Find a day with reasonably cold temperatures when all the bees are home and expected to be there for a few days. Pulling a cart or even walking through snow with a beehive would not be a good idea. The method of moving the hive can also be an issue. If you are strapping it to a 2 wheel dolly or a 4 wheel cart and bouncing it over every mole hill in the yard, it will shake up the hive quite a bit. I came up with and idea several years ago that I use for moving hives within my yard. I put an 8 foot 2x4 or 4x4 piece of lumber on the top of the hive. The size of the lumber is determined by the hive weight. I run 2 straps around the hive and the 2x4. Since the hive is hanging down from the lumber, it is well balanced and will not tip over. We each pick up one end and walk the hive to the new location. The bottom of the hive is never more than 1 foot off the ground. As long as you walk gently (not like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo) the hive barely notices it is being moved. It does take 2 people but works very well for short moves. My now 73 year old wife has helped me move double deep hives this way on numerous occasions.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by bushpilot View Post
    When would you move them? I
    I would pick up the hive right now, put it where you want it, get it over with.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    ...... I put an 8 foot 2x4 or 4x4 piece of lumber on the top of the hive. ......
    Great idea.
    IF have to I will move the hive anytime - does not matter to me - within walking distance.

    Just usually this never comes up in the dead of winter since the moves are normally done before winter (or after winter).
    My previous landlord mentioned moving the bees mid-winter once - I told him - will have to wait until April - not touching without a good enough reason (there wasn't).

    My standard short-distance moving equipment (year around) - four round brackets pre-installed on all hives and two spindles (or similar metal pipes - need to find these still somewhere - be a better choice).
    20161001_172806_Small.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    I regularly move my colonies around as I winter with all of them gathered together on a winter stand, which is not where the majority of them spend their summers. Summers many of them are spread around my farm.

    I suggest reading what Michael Bush has to say about moving hives. He has some non-traditional ideas about moving hives that work quite well. I use a modified method which is based on his plan.

    The major modification which I use, is that I no longer move hives box-by-box. I strap them together with four ratchet straps: two around the hive to keep it tight no matter what happens, and a second pair for the hoist itself. We use a chain with a large hook on the end that's wrapped around the bucket of our tractor to do the heavy lift. If I didn't have access to that, I would use a heavy duty handcart, extra straps to secure the cart and the hive together and some major muscle to move the cart. (I have a 3-deep monster at work that has to come into the fenced Apiary for the winter. We can't get the SkidSteer out to it, so I'll be doing the handcart trick.)

    That's how the move happens. But it's not the only issue. Oriented bees are the second problem with short-distance moves. I lean heavily on Michael Bush's insights here, too. I always plan on having strong re-orientation prompts at the new location's entrance point. And I also use Bush's idea about a "Left-Behind" box for the first few evenings after the move to collect the slow-learners that fly back to the old location and can't figure out where they started from that morning.

    To make this easier (and this part is different from the Bush technique) I install a triangle bee escape board on top of the hive on top of the uppermost box, or the upper vent shim if using one, and just under the telecover. I do this before the move so it's in place right from the start, without having to open the newly-moved hive to install it afterward.

    The purpose of the escape board is to simplify the nightly re-joining of the main colony with the Left Behind box and its stragglers. The original Bush method called for setting it right against the entrance, but I found this awkward to do in the dark with the re-orientation prompts in place. I find it easier to simply remove the telecover and plop the L-B box right on top of the bee escape board (OK to do in the dark, the bees can't fly up at you with the board in place) and let them figure it out overnight.

    The Left Behind box works like this: Late in the afternoon, or in very early evening on warm days, when the some of the bees are still flying, set it out on the old site. It's any box with frames, even undrawn ones, and no, or at least very little honey in order to avoid robbing) with an improved base and top. I like to have a strap around it so I can carry the whole shebang easily. Late-returning bees will find a box and take shelter in it even if it isn't their "home" hive. After dark, carry the box to the new location, unstrap it and set just the box - without base or top - on top of the escape board and under the telecover. The bees will stay in the L-B box while you do this if you are well-organized, quick, and gentle. I suppose you could leave the L-B top on it for simplicity and simply rotate the top from the hive back out for the next night's pick-up. I don't do that because my L-B tops are often just a piece of plastic, and not really tops.

    The Left-Behind box should not be placed on the site until late in the day (or if the weather is going down badly, just before that happens) and it's only offered for a few days. Careful observation will tell you when you are no longer catching any clueless bees, and you can stop putting it out. I have only rarely had to do it more than 2 or 3 days in a row.

    As for when to do the move: I would opt for doing the move in the evening (after dark, when all the bees are in) if you are moving using a tractor and the path is clear and smooth. This is a good time when you have to recruit friends to help. But I have also successfully done it early in the day before the bees have a chance to leave. I close them in just before dawn. And as for the time of year: I suggest doing it in warm enough weather so that issues of disturbing the cluster in weather when it's too cold for them to successfully re-establish it, and also when it is still warm enough for the bees to go to the old site, fail to find their hive and then still have warmth-enough and time to search for the new one before they perish from the cold.

    One year I moved my bees on Dec 6th or 7th, right before a cool-down period. (I am in northern NY Z4b/5a.) As it happened that year the expected cool-down occurred, but then the Polar Express moved in right after that. The bees didn't leave the hive for nearly 6 weeks after the move (by their own choice because of the temps - they weren't penned in.) I was appalled to discover on the first warm day that thousands of them perished in the deep snow at the old site when they flew out. I had maintained the dense re-orientation prompts in front of the hive the whole time. So my recommendation to move them when it is still warm is based on that. Apparently, not withstanding the Received Wisdom of Beekeeping, it isn't simply time passing which extinguishes the bees' geographic picture of where they live, it is experience, too, discovering they are in the different or wrong place and re-orientating to the new one.

    My final advice is repetitive, but worth being boring about: don't skimp on the straps. Two pairs of beefy ratchet straps per stack are not overkill. Two for the stack and two for the lift. And real ratchet straps, not wussy ones with just cams. I recently moved a hive that was under-strapped. When an attempt to lift it on to a tail-gate failed and the hived slipped backwards, it broke apart and I got dozens and dozens of stings from the outraged bees. It was the worst experience I have ever had with bees. And despite not having an "allergy" that much bee venom made me very sick, as it would for almost anyone. The bees would have been plenty-pissed by the drop alone, but the stack breaking apart allowed them all to weigh in with their fury. And, also, be sure to securely the close up the entrance before the move, even if a few bees are still loose. Better a few stragglers that need to be dealt with, than thousands of them taking exception to your plans.

    If the tractor-bucket hoist idea is confusing, I can attach pictures that will make it clearer.

    It will also earn you points if you decide on the site of the new stand, and prepare it now, even if you plan to delay the move until spring. My mother taught me that when supper is inevitably going to be late, the smartest thing to do is begin by setting the table. Evidence of progress goes a long way.

    Nancy

  18. #17
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I regularly move my colonies around as I winter ...........

    If the tractor-bucket hoist idea is confusing, I can attach pictures that will make it clearer.

    It will also earn you points if you decide on the site of the new stand, and prepare it now, even if you plan to delay the move until spring. My mother taught me that when supper is inevitably going to be late, the smartest thing to do is begin by setting the table. Evidence of progress goes a long way.

    Nancy
    Thanks, Nancy.

    One problem - why a beek with 2-3 hives invest his/her time/money into all that equipment?
    No need.

    Simple two-person carry arrangements and simple materials work.
    Yes - it takes a second person (which is a good thing, most often than not).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    I came up with and idea several years ago that I use for moving hives within my yard. I put an 8 foot 2x4 or 4x4 piece of lumber on the top of the hive. The size of the lumber is determined by the hive weight. I run 2 straps around the hive and the 2x4. Since the hive is hanging down from the lumber, it is well balanced and will not tip over. We each pick up one end and walk the hive to the new location. The bottom of the hive is never more than 1 foot off the ground.
    Reminds me of this shot from the film 'Zulu' (1964):



    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  20. #19
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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    @GregV:

    I certainly didn't buy our farm tractor merely to move bees, though I'd have gotten the Good Wife of the Century Award from my husband if it had been me arguing that we had to buy a tractor just for the bees. The tractor belongs to my husband. He likes to move bees with it, because it gives him an extra excuse for why he needed it in the first place. Boys love their machines, ya know. Plus, there's usually a pie involved in the deal.

    Nancy

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    Default Re: When (time of year) to move hives

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    @GregV:

    I certainly didn't buy our farm tractor merely to move bees,....

    Nancy
    You see - the tractor.
    For the most residential/hobby/small beeks, a tractor is never a factor.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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