Moving the Hives to Make Way for… Our Home!

Have you ever considered how you would move a stack of boxes containing 60,000 bees in them? I only have two hives, but I felt daunted by this task. You might ask, why move the bees? Well, it happens that the perfect place I picked for my small apiary is right in the middle of our future living room. After nearly a decade of dreaming, we’re finally starting to build our home on the farm next month!

My new perfect (and hopefully permanent) apiary spot is 20 yards away, on the dam of a little pond. It’s one of the only flat spots on our whole property! Problem is, there’s a saying in beekeeping that you have to move hives 2 feet or 2 miles. If you move them a middle distance, supposedly you’ll lose a bunch of your forager bees when they return to the old hive location. But I read–and learned from my beekeeping mentor, Peter–that you can move hives any distance you want as long as you place something in front of their entrance that forces forager bees to re-orient to their hive location when they fly out. So I decided to try this.

Back to the situation at hand: two hives, six boxes of bees, twenty yards. One set of protective gear. My chivalrous husband offered to help me, but only if he could wear the bee suit (he is still wary of my little stinging friends since he bore the brunt of their rage after they were attacked by a bear 2 years ago). So, after much dithering, I decided to do it myself!

What followed next would have made for good slapstick footage if filmed and shown at high speed. Instead of moving each hive as one entity (ratchet-strapped together and sealed up), which is how it’s ideally done, I moved each hive one box at a time. Quickly, because there were thousands of angry bees swirling in a cloud around me. Six trips back and forth, carrying one 30-50lb box each time, stopping occasionally to shake a bee out of my sleeve or my pantleg (how did the little Houdinis get up there, anyway?) I didn’t trip, though I moved across uneven ground at a fast clip. All this activity made me realize how completely out of shape I am after pregnancy and a winter of being mostly home with a newborn.

But I did it! Hallelujah! I went out near dark to check on the old apiary site, and found a sizable cluster of forlorn bees on one of the concrete blocks that had formerly housed their hive. So I suited up again and moved the block, setting it down a few inches in front of their hive’s new location, and watched them begin to reconnect with their home. I’ll leave them alone for a few days to settle in, and hope that soon I can split them to double my apiary. But for now, I’m just grateful to have moved them without any major mishaps!


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