We were recently contacted by the family of an elderly beekeeper to assist the family with the relocation of a beehive that was positioned on the roof of a shed that the family wanted to relocate to their vegetable garden.
As the hive in question was a full depth, two boxes high hive there were a number of issues that needed to be resolved before the hive could be moved from the roof.
The first was to create a safe workspace as the fall off or through the roof of the shed, the hive had been located on the shed roof for many years but the integrity of the roof supports had recently been called into question. The thought of falling off the roof was an obvious concerned but just as real was the very real concern of also falling through the roof.
The hive itself had not been harvested this season and as such the top box (Super) was full with 10 frames of capped honey, add to this the fact that a significant area of the brood box was also full of capped honey since the bees were storing all the honey they could with this clearly being a bumper honey production year.
The overall weight of the hive was estimated to be 65+ kgs when the weight of the hive components was taken into consideration.
The decision to lighten the total load(weight) prior to the move of the hive was the obvious choice to help make it easier and safer for everyone concerned, including the bees themselves as like Humpty Dumpty bee hives that fall from height rarely go back together successfully.
As the elderly beekeeper was self-taught and had never discovered or was taught the correct way to attached the wax foundation to the frames, this lead to the combs within the Super being formed in a wave pattern that prevented their removal since as a frame was lifted from the hive the wave shaped honeycomb that the bees had built off the foundation physically prevent their removal. The identified work around resulted in a large bread knife being utilised to cut down through where the gaps between the frames should have existed. As you can imagine significant amounts of smoke needed to be used to flush the bees from the Super to minimise the obvious health & safety concerned associated with cutting blindly through capped honeycomb and needlessly killing the bees.
Thankfully the smoking of the Super helped prevent the loss off bee life as the majority of bees were flushed from the Super allowing the frames to be removed and the honey harvested. This action also allowed for 10 new full depth frames with foundation to be placed back into the hive to replace those removed.
All in all a number of goals were achieved;
1). 38 kgs of honey was harvested from the hive by the family; from the 10 frames and the honeycomb built within the roof cavity of the hive,
2). 10 new foundation frames were added to the hive,
3). The hive was made ready to move, noting that it is now significantly lighter,
4). The bees flushed from the hive that can be seen on the face of the hive will soon return to the hive for BAU
5). The hive is scheduled to be moved in the coming days once the bees re-enter the hive.
Anyway, thought that this hive experience was again worth sharing with you all so you can see firsthand how this problem was tackled.
I will provide further photographs and updates on this hive in the coming days/weeks/months.