Friday, January 8, 2010

Cold Weather Bee Hive Move

One of the things that keeps beekeeping a lively craft is the fact that it is always changing. Beekeeping is not a task that is learned and repeated. It is more a series of events that require planning a course of action that will accomplish the task and still fit with the honey bee’s nature. Big Dan Newton and I found it necessary to move some hives of bees today, the coldest day of the year. We had planned to move the hives in warmer weather, but found with little advanced warning that we would have to make the move today. As we began the task with the temperature at 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a light snow on the ground, and a strong and steady wind out of the northwest, we knew that opening the hive or breaking the bees’ winter cluster would be fatal. In the summer, I often break a hive into individual boxes and move them from the hive stand to the waiting truck one at a time and then reassemble them.

For today’s cold-weather move we began the task by blocking the entrance of each hive with foam rubber. As each hive was equipped with screened bottom boards, providing ventilation was not a problem; there was plenty of air circulation. Next, we tightly secured all of the hive bodies, bottom boards, and covers of each hive with cargo straps. This allowed us to lift each hive as a unit. When lifting a hive, it is mighty helpful to have machinist and blacksmith Big Dan Newton with you. Lifting the hives, they seemed rather light. We decided some emergency feeding might help the bees through the winter. Frozen ground helped us move one hive across a plowed field. For emergency feeding, we placed granulated sugar atop the inner covers of the hives for the bees to access through the center hole. After the move, Dan was pleased to see live bees come to the surface of each hive.

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