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Question

I have 5 hives on a roof deck. It's leaking so I need to move them -- more than three inches, and less than three miles (because I don't have anywhere that far away to put them). How big of a disaster is this and what can I do about it?

Details

They've already expanded to fill both 10-frame deep boxes, and are out flying on 40+ degree days (though there isn't much out there, as far as I can tell). They have leftover fall honey, pollen, brood, and some empty space. They'll be moved maybe 50 feet across and 20 feet down.

Concerns

1. Foragers may return to the roof deck and pester the roofers, or just not come home, to the detriment of the colony.

2. Some of these colonies are a bit ornery and need to be requeened. Being closer to the ground (and to us) might make them a nuisance. I think it'll be OK as long as I keep the dog away from the hives.

3. When the roofers are done I'll move them back up, repeating the problems. They say it'll take a day or two, so let's assume a week.

The only piece of advice I know is, I could put a cedar branch or something in front of each hive's entrance to encourage the foragers to reorient. And of course, do the move at night when they're all inside. Other tips?
 

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Question

.They'll be moved maybe 50 feet across and 20 feet down.


And you say they are aggressive? Don't do this move. They need to move at least 1/2 mile, and more would be better.
You should also leave a catcher hive, say one box of bees preferably with queen. Then after a couple of days you could move that hive as well.

And getting them off the roof. That should be fun. Good luck!
 

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I agree with Gino45 mostly, They are correct do not do this move. Where I disagree is the distance. To keep most of the flying bees in the box it needs to be moved at a minimum of 1 and 1/2, to 3 miles 3 is better, and that is air miles not miles around all three blocks in town. (not sure how big town is).

If you do not get a reasonable distance you will have bees flying back to the roof all week while the roofer's are there. Roofing people and bees both are going to be unhappy. Just saying.

Not sure what your plan is on getting the hives off the roof but a bucket truck at least is recommended, maybe a forklift.

Good luck on the project.

Keep us posted on how it goes.

Happy Home
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The roof deck ("bee deck" I call it) is accessible from inside the house. I'll use a hand truck with a buddy, down a flight of stairs. I'm not looking forward to it as the hives are heavy, some over 150 lbs.

Luckily the hives can be closed up without completely restricting all ventilation, so hopefully I won't end up with bees in the house.

I've seen videos online of more aggressive hives, but I've seen gentler too. My original nucs were gentle but after swarming and requeening themselves they've gotten more defensive. You can walk past no problem, but when working the hives, one tiny little bump or mistake and you've got 5 bees flying into your veil for, like, two minutes before they get bored. So I don't know, I'd say they're "medium". I used to work the bees in shorts and a t-shirt but now I suit up. Koehnen queens coming mid-April.

I was hoping the roofers could work a month ago, before the new foragers learned where their hive is. :\ Too late for that now.
 

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I will consider a catcher hive. Does it have to be a live hive, or would a swarm trap suffice?
 

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I am not an expert here by any means, please do not take my suggestions with any amount of certainty.

I would suggest a nuc colony at the bare minimum, as a catcher hive. I would think it would at least need to be a colony with a queen to keep the bees happy. If you do not have a queen right hive you will have some really unhappy bees.

Just my thoughts.

Happy Home
 

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Move them, screen the entrances so they can't get out during the day. This season in NY you are not losing much except maybe a little pollen. Use a mesh screen so they can get air but not fly. You are talking about a few days at most, right?
 

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Move them, screen the entrances so they can't get out during the day. This season in NY you are not losing much except maybe a little pollen. Use a mesh screen so they can get air but not fly. You are talking about a few days at most, right?
That has to be the best solution, given so few alternatives.
LJ
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The idea of keeping the bees contained had honestly not occurred to me at all! But I agree, at this time of year, if they have ventilation the lost foraging is really irrelevant. I could put a little syrup and pollen patties in the top feeder if I was really worried about that. Interesting...

What if I removed the bottom boards so they had a screened bottom, and then just kept all the entrances completely closed?

Has anyone sealed bees into their hives for a few days, maybe a migratory beekeeper? Was everything OK?

Thanks AR1 for the surprising yet tempting idea...
 

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Mix the syrup super light. If they're heavy anyway, they'll need water more than sugar.
 

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You may want to buy a hive net if you have to move them through the house. You may also want to break the colonies down to lower the weight. You may also want to split at this time to decrease your moving weight. If you don't want more hives you can make some money by selling nucs.

When you get them to their temporary new home I'd lean a piece of plywood or outer cover in front of their entrance to make them go around and reorient. Do leave a box for the stragglers. You may need to do this multiple times. Repeat when moving them back.

Give yourself plenty of lead time before the roofers arrive.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Update:

The move was entirely successful -- no bees in the house, divorce averted. :)

For now I'm going with AR1's solution and keeping them sealed up. Unfortunately, the top feeders are in "cake" mode, which means the bees have full access to them. Not wanting to release bees, I just poured a small quantity of water and Pro Sweet in there. The bees in the top feeder are probably knee deep in that slurry. Ideally, I should clear the bees out of the top feeders and put them in "syrup" mode so I can fill them up with very light syrup. I wouldn't mind getting some pollen sub on them either. But any bees flying would be locked out, so I'm just going to wait.

For ventilation (oxygen) I've pulled the bottom board out 1/4 of the way. (The lowest lows are around 20F and the highest highs are around 65F.)

At times the colonies are very loud which has me a bit worried. Might they feel that something is wrong and supersede the queen? Or might they feel crowded and start super-early swarm preparations? I can see their tongues poking through every vent hole -- they really want out.

Anyway, they're still alive, and hopefully within a week things will be back to normal. At that point I'll probably immediately add supers and try to create some space in the brood boxes as I feel like they're way ahead of schedule this year. I might need to feed because even though they're heavy, there's very little forage, and their population looks like mid-May!
 

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With them being agitated like they are (IMO, that’s normal). I would be concerned about hydration, maybe keep the screen at the entrance well spritzed for a water source.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The entrance isn't screened; it's closed. I've been pouring a little water into the top feeder each day.
 

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I would leave the bottom insert out completely and make sure the hive is not sitting on the ground. We easily get nights in the 20s here ( and much lower) during the winter and sometimes I forget to put the inserts in a hive or two. Never had one die from cold, even the nucs. Would be more concerned with enough ventilation, especially if the entrance is closed off. The aggitation you hear may be them fanning their little behinds off to increase air flow.
 

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In addition to the bottom ventilation they have a tiny bit of top ventilation so I think that's enough but I agree that just pulling the bottoms all the way out probably wouldn't present an issue either.

I'm much more worried about honey, pollen, water, and "troop morale" (keeping the queen laying). But given that they can be rained in or snowed in for a week or two this time of year I'm probably worrying about nothing. It just feels weird and unnatural to have them all locked up.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
As suggested above, I left the hives closed up.

Result

After fixing the roof, the roofers helped me move the hives back up. It definitely wasn't something they signed up for, but I gave them a good tip.

IMG_20200326_145402.jpg

As far as I can tell, all five hives are alive and doing well, and no one got stung. A few bees escaped inside the house, but no big deal.

Before release:

IMG_20200326_145402.jpg

After release:


Within hours, all were bringing in lots of pollen.

Thanks for the advice. Now it's time for swarm control!
 
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