Summer is travel season, right? So Monday we hit the road for the mountains. Just me, Spaghetti, and a quarter million of our closest friends. We moved some of our strongest bee hives up to where this whole Buck Naked adventure started. Summer in the High Country!
Why move the hives? Nutrition. People are surprised to learn that in our area the main
nectar flow only lasts from late March-early June. But there are flowers blooming all summer! Yes, but the heat shuts down major nectar production. Nice window dressing but no chow. Moving hives to our mountains provides bees with a second nectar flow that diversifies their diet, and ours. The coveted sourwood honey comes from this area of NC. It is highly prized for flavor and commands a premium price. Unfortunately much more sourwood honey is sold in NC than there are trees to support it. Unethical beekeepers = mislabeled honey. As described on our honey page, we label ours “Wildflower”.
“How exactly do you move bees?” people ask me. It starts with closing off the hive at
night after the foragers have returned from their collecting business of the day. This is easier said than done in summer. When a busy hive is packed with bodies in summer, they create a lot of heat. The brood nest is kept around 95 degrees but when it is already 90+ outside and you have 30,000 family members coming home from work, it gets hot. Where to go in the south? On the porch of course… A bit of smoke slowly convinces everyone to move back in.
We then screen the entrances off with wire mesh to help with ventilation. This involves a staple gun making loud noises and vibrations. Bees don’t like this. Anyone who can sneak out will. And will presently remind you how much they dislike you. Paul got reminded about 7 times. Spaghetti got it at least twice. I was suited up and wearing long pants, which looked silly at 9pm but rather wise to the swollen by 9:30. Finally we ratchet strap each stack of hive boxes together and move them to the vehicle. This process involves heavy lifting and much swearing.
Now, you may think this job is in the bag, but not so fast! Some of those rogue porch-dwellers didn’t go back inside like you thought! Nope, they are playing it quiet hanging out under the hive on the screened bottom visiting with the jailed family members. (We’ll come back to them). To transport hives, commercial beekeepers use tractor trailers. Small-timers load 5th wheel trailers or pick up trucks. Crazy people use their car. Accordingly, we loaded the hives in the back of the Tahoe (windows open for air overnight. Pity the vandal messing with this car.) Then off to bed.
We left early in the morning to minimize heat and disturbance. Things were going well for a while. A stray bee on a window here or there but nothing bad. It was about Greensboro when the sun roused the foragers who were eager to get on the day’s business. Plus we were stuck in stop & roll traffic. Remember those clever girls under the hive? Well, they woke up. “Hey! We can’t get in the house and we’re stuck in some sort of box with windows!!” The sane among you ask “why not just open the windows and let them go?” (Review our transport strategy above for answer). So Spaghetti and I dodged 50+ hyper-confused bees for the rest of the journey. Intense. Uber intense. Spaghetti decided at one point to let a few out the window by opening it a crack, but was rewarded with a 70mph shot of bees back into his face. In the end, we made it without a single sting.
An amazing fact about bees is that they quickly adapt to their surroundings. Within minutes, lines bees were streaming from the hives and memorizing their new turf. With a mountain of sourwood trees poised to bloom and a lovely waterfall nearby, they should be quite happy. Go find the honey girls!! But the season there is short too. We’ll reverse this process and bring them home mid-July. Maybe with a truck this time.