A beekeeper asks:
Dear Uncle Drone
A swarm moved into an empty brood box in an inconvenient spot in my garden about six weeks ago and is now looking like a lovely colony. I need to move it about 10 yards so that the grandson doesn’t get involved. I’ve heard recently and seen on YouTube that its possible to move hives short distances (but further than the recommended 3 ft at a time) if you shut the bees in for 24 to 72 hours and put foliage in front when you open up. What do you think of this idea?
Uncle Drone replies:
While shutting the bees in for 24 to 72 hours may work OK I have never used it as a method because there is a danger (at this time of year) that the bees can panic and overheat. With autumn coming on there is less nectar, the bees will be collecting water to cool the colony, any break in these activities will unbalance the hive, potentially cause defecation in the hive and spread disease.
Remember that bees locate their home by remembering the vicinity when they first emerge from the hive, and try to make them repeat this.
My tried and tested method is as follows:
1. At dusk after all flying has ceased, close the hive to be moved using a wet sponge in the entrance.
2. Move the hive to the new site carefully, placing on a low hive stand (bricks or blocks) and completely removing all signs of where the hive stood (change the look of the old location).
3. Gather bracken, long grass, leaves, prunings etc, enough to spread over the front of the hive so that the bees cannot just fly straight out.
4. Pull out a corner of the wet sponge, to reveal about a quarter of the entrance.
5. Place all the assembled bits of bracken, leaves, long grass etc over the front of the hive that has just been exposed and fix to stop the wind blowing them away. Please note: you cannot have too much but you can have too little.
6. Check that enough debris has been applied to stop any bee flying straight out but must crawl out via the clutter you have just placed in the way.
7. Watch the bees in the morning and see them re-orientate to the new position as they emerge
8. After 2 days if the debris has not already blown away, remove the balance and the sponge from the entrance.
9. Job done.