Although there is no way we can supply the sheer volume of honey, beeswax and propolis we need from our own bees, we feel that it's important that we continue to keep bees even though it's difficult to juggle running the business, family life and bees all at the same time! There is something very "grounding" about keeping bees, feeling that you are somehow connected in a very small way to the overall health of the local environment.
This week, we had to move one of my apiaries to a new home as the previous landowner wanted to build his retirement home close to the where the bees were and so reluctantly, they had to go. I put the word out through my local association Fleet Beekeepers and had a number of kind offers from my colleagues, but it's difficult to find sufficient space for more than just a couple of hives, especially when an increasing number of colonies are being stolen at the moment.
Luckily, some good friends (Thanks Heather!) spoke to their neighbours and we were offered what looks like the perfect site - a three acre field surrounded by tall hedges making it impossible to spot the hives from any public space whilst keeping them sheltered from the prevailing winds.
The site also has vehicle access which is important if you've ever had to carry several 25kg supers full of honey any distance! The landowners (Thanks Simon & Paul) kindly cleared a corner of the field and we started to move the bees in a few days ago.
The site is ideal for the bees and is surrounded by a mixture of trees and hedgerows with plenty of flowering plants for the bees to forage and the landowners are building a large wildflower meadow in the next field over which should provide even more food next year.
The nearest house is a good distance away across two fields which means the residents won't be disturbed by their new neighbours and the surrounding farmland is planted with fields of Oil-seed Rape and Field Beans which are also a great source of nectar and pollen for foraging bees and should guarantee the farmer with a good crop from the introduction of several hundred thousand new pollinators to work their fields as a bonus.
Moving full colonies is never easy, especially at this time of the year when the colonies are at their biggest - 80,000 bees plus honey etc, weighs over 90kilos each! We had to move the colonies just before dark when almost all the foragers had returned before sealing up the entrances and then carefully loading each hive into the back of the truck.
The whole process took several nights before we could move all the colonies into the new apiary and we broke a couple of hive stands along the way, but eventually we got them into their new home. In this picture you can see some of the first group of hives in place.
We had to use a couple of temporary hive stands (old milk-crates) for some of the colonies and there is still a lot of work to do, but the important thing is that the bees seem happy in their new apiary. After a few flights to reorientate themselves to their new location all colonies are already bringing plenty of honey and pollen into the hives.