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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What exactly is "drifting"? How can I avoid it?

I performed a split a few days ago and now there's about half of the bees I put in there originally. They've got 2 queen cells and a frame of eggs and brood so I wasn't too worried, but a lot of the bees seem to be disappearing or heading back to the original hive. The split and the original hive are about 20' apart.
 

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The workers that were foraging before the split are simply returning to the original location. The only way to stop that would be to move it 2 miles or so from the original location. Or there's the branch method, maybe confining them for a few days.

The good news is they should be done by now.
 

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Drifting is when field bees land at the wrong hive. Possible Reasons are probably endless (wind, getting caught up in other bees flight paths <- I made that one up but logical enough, confusion, etc.).

Some things that are said to help cut down on drifting is to make sure the hives are spaced enough and are angled differently from one another so each hive has a different "view" of the area. Also some say painting hives different can help.

What you are describing is not considered drifting. You made up a split with bees, obviously about half of them were field bees. They simply went home. Field bees have taken orientation flights so they know where they live so when they left your split they simply flew home - or drifted to another hive in their attempt.

I have been told that when you shake bees in that the older bees will fall off easier. So if you want to keep more bees in your split give the frame a nice shake over the original and the many of the remaining bees will be younger and will remain with the split.

If I am wrong on any points someone please correct me,
Mike
 

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Drifting is where bees of one colony "drift" to another colony. They can't find their way home to the home hive so they drift to another colony. Often the drifting can occur when the hives are sitting too closely to each other, no characteristic markings and the bees just gravitate to the end hives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Very good definitions. Thank you.

I also had a recently captured swarm and the population seems to be going down. These were about 80' away from the other hives. Are they drifting?

When you say 'too close', what exactly is that? In other people's beeyards I often see 2-4 hives to a wooden pallet. I've been putting one to a pallet and separating them by at least 20' feet.
 

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When you say 'too close', what exactly is that? In other people's beeyards I often see 2-4 hives to a wooden pallet. I've been putting one to a pallet and separating them by at least 20' feet.
to close means it is causing drifting. :D
Really though I think as long as you can work them easily they are probably ok. The angle, paint, etc. will probably help more than moving the hive further away (if you can already stand between them).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Heh. Trial and error for awhile, I guess. In a full-strength hive I really can't see drifting being a problem. A few bees going here or there won't matter much. It's on the splits that it really screws me up. I like to move them down near the house (300' away from the apiary) but that's getting to be a problem too. I'm crowding the house with splits which makes the wife unhappy. An unhappy beekeeper's wife means an unhappy beekeeper.

I still can't figure out where half the bees in that swarm went. They just don't seem to be in the hive anymore.
 

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I am probably annoying more experienced beekeepers :D

Anyway - they could have drifted (though you say it is 80' away so I doubt it).
If you looked at mid morning to late afternoon they could have been foraging.
They could have died.

Opinion -
I would stop putting the nucs near to the house. Once located you have to move them 3+ miles away for a few weeks then bring them back to the new spot -or- move them 3' at a time. This can be a real pain (we had an OH overwinter and it is now being moved 3' at a time to get it over to the hives).
It is best to put them where you want to keep them.
Some say a brank or such over the entrance after moving will do, but to me it is not logical.

Mike
 

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Look at it from the bee's piont of view. Bees are moved to a new location. The foragers take flight & go from bloom to bloom for an hour or so. When they are full of nectar, they say "olay, it's time to go home." They know the lay of the land from having foraged before and they take the same trip back that they have before. So, they end up at the hive where they have been returning to so many times before.

I read somewhere that if you set up hives in a "V" shape with the point of the "V" facing the forage and all the hive entrances facing towards the forage, that the hive in the point will end up with something like 3 times the honey as the others. This is just from bees drifting to the point hive.
 

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You can use this to advantage also.
If you have two hives, and one is really weak and the other very strong. You can switch their positions. The bees fly to the hive located where they expect to find their home. That way the weak hive gets this big boost in field workers. The stronger hive can shove more of it's younger bees out to the field to compensate.
 

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When I do a split I assume half the bees will return. So you either need to shake in twice as many as you want or you need to move them two miles awary (or more).

Or move BOTH hives so they don't go back to the old because it's not there...
 

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I've always found that if I make a split and plan to have it in the same yard, it works best if I pull the queen and just a few frames and place it next to the parent hive. Some foragers will drift TO the queenright split while some go back to the original location.
 

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I've been putting one to a pallet and separating them by at least 20' feet.
Drifting will occur when the hives are lined up close to each other, less than a few feet apart. If all of your hives are 20' apart I don't think you will ever have to worry about drifting.
 
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