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The location of a beehive is not fixed, and sometimes it becomes necessary to transport beehives, especially over long distances. The work is hard but the entire process is not complicated at all. When you need to truck bees, you should take their needs and behavior into consideration. Proper preparations and provision for feed are needed by the beekeeper moving their bees for various purposes. In pollination season, beehives are moved long distances. This guide takes you through moving beehives and making sure that the honeybee colonies inside are well taken care of. It provides you with detailed information about trucking bees and how to move a beehive.
What You Need to Know Before Moving Beehives
Moving honeybee colonies to a new location disorients them. They take time to get familiar with the surroundings. Once they are familiar with the new location, they can make longer flights from the beehive. You can move beehives a short distance or over long distances. When moving a short distance, it is good to restrict daily movements to distances of not more than 3 feet from the original position. Longer distance moving of the beehive should be to a location at least 3 miles from the original location.
If the distance is shorter, the bees might recognize landmarks and go looking for a beehive at the original location. When you move the beehive a short distance, leave some twigs or other suitable obstacles just after the entrance of the beehive. It makes bees have to re-orient themselves as they are leaving the beehive. This is better than the bees having to look for the beehive when they are coming back to the beehive.
Getting the beehive from one location to another in small moves over a period of time is called inching. The beehive is moved small distances every day until it arrives at the final desired position. This process is great for changing the location of beehives in your backyard and small apiaries. The beehive is moved in the evening so that bees start the next day from the new location. It is unlike long distance transporting of a beehive. You need to have the moving route planned out and prepared to take the weight of the beehive. A stand should be used with the beehive during the inching process. If the beehive is too much weight for you, have someone to help you with moving it. Even with best timing of the moves, you should have enough protection from bee stings.
Before moving a beehive, you need to look into its ventilation. The bees will be in the beehive and need fresh air supply. Arrangement of beehives on the bed of a truck or trailer takes into consideration ventilation of the bees. Wind currents hitting properly arranged beehives during trucking are enough for ventilation. The entrances of beehives can be used as ventilation routes. You can also make special openings in the beehive boxes if need be.
It pays to go over the hottest parts of the beehive transportation journey in the night. You can cover long distances driving at night and save your honeybees in the beehive being transported a lot of stress. This is done to avoid the heat of daytime. A spray bottle with water or sugar syrup can be used to cool the beehives during daytime stops. Furthermore, when transporting many beehives, the bed of your truck is better suited to be open. Covered truck beds are not very well ventilated. It allows you to ensure ventilation of all beehives and more cooling from air currents.
Get a Truck
Often, a pick-up truck or other transportation vehicle is used for moving beehives. Sedans are not suitable for the job. The beehive being transported is secured firmly to the bed of the truck. You can also stack one beehive on top of another. Securing the beehives properly reduces the chances of the beehive stack coming apart during transit. It also reduces the vibrations going through the beehive during the journey.
Once you arrive at the new location for your beehives, you should open the entrance of the beehive as soon as you can. It allows bees to start orienting themselves to the new location and how to find it. Landmarks in the area are great for helping bees find the location. Colors too have been used effectively to help bees find their beehives faster in new locations. After trucking bees, allow them at least 2 days to get familiar with the new location.
You should not drive at high speeds when trucking bees. This is because you do not want to run a lot of vibrations through the beehive and damage comb. Moderate speeds are kept through the entire journey for best results.
Security of the Beehives
Important things to look out for when trucking bees include the security of the beehives from theft and vandalism, integrity of the beehives during the journey and the health of the honeybee colony in the beehive. You should also be concerned about stress reduction for the honeybee colonies. These factors are critical for success when you transport a beehive. They are looked into in detail in latter sections of this guide.
How Bees Orientate
Honeybees can move large distances from the beehive they call home and back. All lands in a radius of 3-5 miles from the beehive are foraging fields for honeybees. Forager bees make the longest flights and go furthest from the beehive. Other bees make shorter flights and spend less time outside the beehive. All bees in the beehive know how to find it in case they go out on various duties or activities. For orientation, bees use the sun, landmarks and colors. They also depend on hive odors for final location of their beehive. A bee leaving the hive for the first time flies around the beehive in increasing circles. It reads landmarks and gets the best routes of approach to the beehive. In an orientation flight, the bee flies backwards from the entrance of the beehive.
When you have moved a beehive with a honeybee colony in it, it is good to have an obstruction around the beehive entrance. It makes bees understand that they need to orient themselves in respect to the beehive since something has changed. Upon leaving the entrance, bees encounter your obstacle and perform an orientation flight. They note new landmarks and the sun’s position before moving too far from the beehive. This means that many bees are able to go out and come back to the beehive. If the bees leave the beehive as they are used to, they may not be able to come back to it since familiar landmarks are missing.
Scents used by bees to locate their beehive are released by the honey in the beehive and the queen bee herself. After moving a beehive, the queen bee may be stressed out and not releasing enough amounts of pheromones. You cannot therefore rely on bees using only the scent of their beehive to find their way back after relocating it.
With enough landmarks and proper setup, all the bees in the beehive will be fully oriented in about two days. This is why it is important to open the beehive entrance as soon as you arrive at your destination. The bees get to making orientation flights quickly and start foraging. It is important for bees to get familiar with their surroundings quickly and continue collecting resources. During pollination season, honeybee colonies are usually storing up honey and other food resources. You should facilitate this even as you transport the beehive to earn from the provision of pollination services. The honeybee colony that does not store up enough food for later seasons, can die off in winter or early spring.
Best Time to Move a Beehive
Moving a beehive goes better when timed well. You want to get the whole colony inside at one go. Evening and early morning times are best for sealing up and preparing the beehive for moving. At this time, all the bees are inside the beehive and clustered around frames. When working with many hives, any time after evening is right. You can work through the night if needed to. If you move the beehive during the day, you leave very many foragers behind. The entrances are sealed up allowing for ventilation and the beehive is ready for transport. You can use various meshes and nettings to cover the beehive. The mesh and nettings used in beekeeping during transporting a beehive must allow for ventilation.
Transporting Honeybees for Pollination
Farmers of various crops and plants use honeybees to ensure pollination. They hire the services of beekeepers for a few days or weeks. Large fields of plants require many bees on site for longer periods of time for complete pollination to take place. Beekeepers move their honeybees long distances in beehives to provide pollination services. Transporting bees for pollination is seasonal. It happens for one season in the year.
The preparation you need to make when transporting bees for pollination is very similar to preparation for regular transportation of beehives. You can also follow the same procedure. During transport, the bees can be kept without food and provided with a few frames of honey once they arrive at the final destination. The best colonies to transport for pollination, are those with many worker bees and some brood. They should have little food reserves so they put a lot towards roaming the fields looking for nectar and pollen. In the process, the bees visit many plants in the fields and pollinate them.
Bee Transport Netting
Netting covers and wraps of various types can be used when transporting beehives. They are used to cover entrances and make sure beehives are ventilated during the journey. Some beekeepers use simple screens over the entrance of the beehive for this purpose. Others use mosquito netting as the netting of choice. The distance you are transporting the beehive determines the best netting to use. For short distances, it may even be unneeded. For long distance transport, individual wraps can be made from landscape shade cloth.
Factors that determine what type of netting to use with beehives, include the capital available to the beekeeper. Beekeepers with more to spare can go for higher placed individual wraps for beehives during transport. The beekeepers can also afford large wraps that go over all the beehives they are transporting. The use of these wraps also extends to the covering of single hives that are transported long distances.
When you do not have any netting or wrap, use other suitable covering for the holes going into the beehive. When it is warm, bees have a natural urge to venture out of the beehive. If they do this while you are moving, they get lost. Preventing loss of honeybees from the beehive in such a manner is the major function of netting. A breathable screen or mesh over the entrance of the beehive is sufficient in such cases. It should be secured firmly to the entrance and any other opening on the beehive through which bees can enter or leave the beehive.
Some beekeepers use specially designed fabrics for covering their beehives during transport. They go for branded products that are strong fabrics with breathable characteristics. The commercially produced and sold netting is low priced to make it affordable for most beekeepers.
Bee Hauling Nets
Hauling nets are used to cover the beehives, helping with providing shade for the beehives so that they do not heat up too much. The hauling nets also reduce the amount of wind hitting the beehives directly. As the vehicle you are using to transport the beehives moves, wind hits the netting and is dissipated. Smaller air currents flow between the beehives and provide ventilation.
Covering beehives with a hauling net during transportation also helps keep bees controlled in case an accident happens and they get out of the beehive. The coverings for entrances and other openings might come loose during transit. Bees leave the beehive through the opening and get lost. If you have stopped, the bees can start stinging people in the vicinity. Hauling nets with very fine mesh can keep bees trapped within the cargo hold. When used well, a hauling net can save you a lot of losses.
Beehives in transit are secured down using various straps and ties. They should remain intact and fully assembled. In addition to the straps you use, a hauling net thrown over the beehives and secured down well improves the security of beehives during your journey.
How to Transport Bees Long Distance
Moving beehives requires you to take some steps in preparation before the actual exercise. You should seal up the beehive well, allowing for ventilation. The honeybee colony in the beehive needs fresh air entering at all times. When handling the beehives, it is great you have a beekeeping suit on. It should be complete with suitable gloves and footwear. Secure strapping of the beehive to be moved is also needed. You should make sure the straps are of good quality; they should not break easily. The strapping keeps beehives intact during transport. It is alright if you need help with lifting and moving the beehives at some point. Organize for adequate help in terms of labor and equipment you need to use.
Transportation of the beehive over long distances should be done using a suitably built vehicle. Vehicles with beds for cargo are best suited for the job.
Once at the selected new location of your beehive, place it on a suitable stand and open the entrance. The bees in the hive will start making orientation flights in and out of the beehive when weather permits. If you arrive at your destination in the evening, the bees will not come out of the hive until it is morning. Various aids can be placed on and near the beehive to help with orientation. A twig or obstacle near the entrance is great for alerting them to the need to re-orient. It can be backed by coloring to further speed up orientation. If the beehives are not too many, the bees can be let out in late evening for short cleansing flights.
For the moving of honeybee colonies over long distances, provision for feeding can be provided for, in order to keep the colony nourished. Frames of honey left in the beehive are often adequate for use during transit. They can also be used by the honeybee colony before new food sources are identified in the new location. Once forager bees start bringing in nectar, the colony usually goes back to making honey.
Some unnecessary parts of a beehive may be removed before transporting it. Beehive boxes with honey can be removed, reducing the size of beehive stack. This reduces the weight you have to deal with during when moving the beehive. With enough planning and preparation, you can clear honeybees from some boxes. About 3 days are needed with modern beekeeping equipment to clear the boxes of bees. Once at the new location, be sure to return all necessary boxes and equipment to the beehive stack.
You may use various materials and equipment when moving beehives. What you use is up to your preferences. The equipment and materials you settle for should make the process easier and faster. They may include screens or meshes of various types. Netting, duct tape, cushioning and shims. A spray bottle containing water or sugar syrup might also be needed. For installation of the beehive at the new location, a carpenter’s level and some shims come in handy.
Transporting Bees Across State Lines
Long distance transportation of beehives can result in crossing of state lines. Moving bees for pollination purposes is one of the major causes of long distance transportation of beehives. The bees are used in many locations over the season. They help the beekeeper earn income by providing useful services to farmers of various crops. The honeybee colonies used for pollination are many in number. They come from the large apiaries and are moved using trucks of various sizes. A single beekeeper can move around states with more than a few hundred honeybee colonies.
Transporting bees across state lines requires some diligence by the beekeeper. You should check out the laws governing movement of livestock and bees in general. The varying states you visit might have different requirements. You should ensure that the beehives are transported in a manner that meets local regulations. You should also obtain permits where necessary. States can sometimes have quarantines against movement of bees across them due to control of diseases and pests of honeybees. Varroa mites have caused some jurisdictions to ban entry of any bee swarms, in order to avoid infestation of local swarms by the mites.
When moving across state lines with beehives, security is a concern for you. Along the journey, ensure the beehives are safe. Periodically, check harnesses and tie downs for tightness and sureness they are securing beehives to your transport vehicle. You should also carefully select locations to stop during transit. It is okay to hire additional security if necessary for your beehives during transport. Insurance for the beehives is a relief in case they get damaged or stolen while you are transporting them.
Effects of Moving Beehives
Studies that have been done have shown that honeybee colonies get stressed during long distance moves. As such, during transport, you should try to reduce the stress caused to bees as much as possible. Various short term effects include a drop in the number of bees in the colony and swarming. It is believed that disturbances and stress causes some colonies to leave the beehive. Beekeepers that transport beehives for pollination often have colonies of honeybees that are not quick to abscond.
These effects can translate into long term problems for the honeybee colony. Pests and diseases can attack them with ease when the number of bees in the colony is small and cause a lot of damage. A stressed out colony is not able to defend the beehive well. It can be attacked by robber bees and destroyed, or deprived of the honey it had stored up.
Upon arrival at the destination, you should look out for other bee colonies that might rob your newly arrived colonies in the area. If you find there are some colonies in the area, take measures to prevent robbing. Beekeepers with many beehives for pollination often use robbing screens with their beehives because of this. The screen covers the entrance of the beehive so that only residents know how to get in and out of it. Bees from other colonies drawn by the scent of honey cannot go around the robbing screen.
The physiology of honeybees is affected by transportation. Older bees are affected more by the stress of transportation than younger bees. The colonies that undergo transportation over significant distances have shown problems with the development of food glands in individual bees. This ultimately affects their ability to nurse brood into a next generation of worker bees. Frequent moving of honeybees can therefore result in a weakened colony. Beekeepers allow their honeybee colonies rest for most of the year and only move them during pollination season which lasts about two months. It helps reduce the effects of being transported long distances.
Stress Caused From Transporting the Bees
Changing locations is stressful for bees. It is similar to people when you have to change houses or move from one place of living to another. For bees, the stress they undergo can be due to various factors. It has varying results too, based on the extent of stress and the causative factors, which we’ll discuss below.
Heat and Poor Ventilation
When moving, heating is one of the stressing factors on bees. The beehive that is not well ventilated and cooled becomes unsuitable for habitation. Bees in the particular beehive may try some thermoregulation activity. Cooling the beehive and making sure it is well ventilated when moving it, can prevent stress caused by excessive heating of the beehive.
Lack of Food Resources
Another cause of stress to bees during a beehive move is lack of food resources. If the bees get hungry during transit, they get stressed out. While removing beehive boxes with stored honey on their beehive frames saves the frames from damage and prevents comb from getting torn off from frames during transportation, at the same time, it can deny your honeybee colony the food it needs. For a day or two, the bees should be provided with enough food in form of honey on beehive frames and sugar syrup as necessary. You can place a few frames with comb and stored honey in the beehive for the bees to use during the move.
Vibrations moving through the beehive are another cause of stress for bees in a beehive that is being transported. Bees use vibrations of various kinds to communicate. They transmit the vibrations through the beehive via honeycomb and beehive frames. During transportation, the beehive has vibrations from the vehicle being used in transportation. These new vibrations are not understood by honeybees.
Noise and unfamiliar sounds have also been found to cause bees stress during transportation. Beehives on the bed of a truck are subjected to various noises that the bees can detect. Passing cars, sirens, the wind and many other sources of noise are encountered during transit. Bees get agitated by these noises and can be very much stressed out.
Mishaps like toppled beehives, broken comb and beehives opening up might happen during transportation of a beehive. The bees are exposed and become stressed out. It is important to make sure beehives are properly assembled and secured to the bed of your transport vehicle.
A Final Word
Stress caused from moving the bees has an effect on their productivity and so you should take measures to reduce the stress bees are subjected to. Transporting bees at night reduces their exposure to noises from various daytime sources. Insulation and cushioning the beehive reduces the vibrations transferred from the transport vehicle to the beehive.
In a stressed out honeybee colony, the queen bee might stop laying eggs in the hive. This is a threat to the continuity of the beehive. If during an inspection you notice the queen has stopped laying eggs due to transportation stress, you should find ways to nurse the colony back to health. You can add frames of brood to the beehive and cease moving the beehive until the queen resumes laying eggs. Adding frames of brood to the beehive helps keep the number of bees in the beehive high enough for survival of the colony.
If your honeybees get stressed out, you risk lowered production and possible death of the colony. Coupled with other factors such as pest infestations and disease infections, the stress caused from transporting the bees can cause total loss of a honeybee colony. Dealing with the effects of stressed out bees can be costly for the beekeeper.
To reduce the effects of stress in the bees, provide them with enough feed and water. Once you arrive at the new location, set up the beehives on their stands and see about having a feeder installed. The honeybees can also be given more frames of honey and water if you do not want to feed them sugar syrup. Opening the beehive entrance to allow movement of honeybees in and out also helps reduce stress levels in the bees.