Most beehives only need to be moved occasionally, and when they do, it is a question of blocking them in at night, moving them to their new location early the next morning, and letting them orient to their new spot. As long as they are at leasts 3 miles away from their previous location, there will be no problem with them returning to the old site as they will have reset their coordinates, like a SatNav rerouting.
For this purpose, National hives (or other box hives such as Langstroths and Smiths) are best suited as they basically form a cube with an entrance at the base, so that is blocked with a breathable plug once the foragers have returned home for the night, and the hive strapped up, placed in the vehicle, and moved the following day. A mesh floor makes things easy as it prevents the bees overheating, but mesh crown boards are available to facilitate ventilation if they are on a solid floor.
WBCs are a bit of a different story, as they are not designed to be moved so require a little more work to get ready. This is because the floor is also the stand, and the brood box sits on top of this with a margin around the edge so the lifts can sit around the edge, protecting the internal boxes. They can be strapped but because of the angle, it’s difficult to make sure the boxes stay put (think speed bumps, potholes…).
The hive we were asked to move has a rather weathered base and I didn’t trust the wood to take the strain of straps. The bees are left alone – and consequently are happy and healthy – but it did mean we had to evacuate a large population of false widows and house spiders who have been happily residing between the lifts and boxes for some years. The lifts have a number of holes in the corners and I wonder if the spiders have prevented robbing bees, wasps and wax moth from entering the hive. If so, I hope these bees encourage some new arachnid occupants sooner rather than later!
The top super came off as it was full of honey [heavy] and we drummed out the bees. We needed a new base to seal the base: I taped porter bee escapes to a spare crownboard and we lifted the brood plus super and put it underneath. This of course removed the bees’ access, so I drilled two entrance holes in the side of the brood box. A mesh travel screen was stapled on top of the upper box, and we tied the whole thing up securely with ratchet straps. The bees took a while to find their entrances and they went in to swarm mode, clustering on the front. We sat the roof and its fixed lift over them to keep them dark and dry, and put the boxes on some spare wood to make them easier to lift.
The next evening Helen, the hive’s owner, put vented blocks in to the entrance holes. The following morning we arrived and wrapped the whole hive in a dark sheet as there were a few the wrong side of the mesh coverboard! In to my car, with Paul taking the roof and base. Off we went to the new location. We then reversed the procedure: base down, plugs out:
We let them settle before removing the staples and straps, pulling out the base board, removing the mesh cover and replacing the honey super, lifts, and roof.
The bees have an amazing view! – and fantastic opportunities to forage nearby. The inner boxes are in great shape and the lifts can be repaired and repainted, and Helen has big plans for her garden so I have no doubt the bees will be well provisioned.
All in all, a successful move.