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Transferring Bees

§ 94. Transferring bees from box-hives is not so common as it was fifty years ago, for very few bees are now hived in boxes or “gums.” The best time for this is during fruit-bloom, when the hives are not overrunning with bees, and are light in honey. A good day should be selected when the bees are at work on the bloom, as there is consequently no robbing (87).

After smoking the bees at the entrance of a box-hive, remove it some distance from the old stand, leaving an empty decoy hive or box in its place, to receive the bees that return from the fields; invert the hive, place an empty box or hive over it, of the same size and shape, wrapping a sheet of cloth around where they come together, leaving no cracks large enough for a bee to escape. By smartly tapping or drumming the hive for some time, most of the bees, with the queen, will enter the upper box. When they have nearly all left the hive, place the upper box with the bees on the old stand removing the decoy. Being alarmed and filled with honey, they may be handled without fear.

The old hive may now be removed to a convenient room or building, and taken to pieces, by cutting off the nails with a cold-chisel and prying off the ends, cutting the combs when taken out as near as possible to the size of the frames to be used.

It is well to lay a frame over the combs spread upon a large board, so as to cut them to fit exactly (Fig. 59).

Previous to this work, the apiarist should have prepared a number of wires of proper length to be fastened by a bent end into the top and bottom bars of the frames. A number of these wires (Fig. 60), are driven on one side of a number of frames, and the frames, one at a time, laid wire side down on the board. Then the comb is fitted in and other wires nailed on top. The frame with the brood has then the appearance of the one in Fig. 61. Twine may be used, but it stretches, and does not hold the comb as stiff as wire. A previous edition of this book advised the use of sticks fastened with wire. The method we give here is much the best.

No drone-comb or drone-brood should be transferred. The bees will always have too much. Chickens will eat the drone-brood if it is given them. The worker-brood, of course, should be transferred so as to occupy a central position in the frames as is natural in the hive. The honey is placed in the rear of the combs.

Carry the new hive to the old stand, and empty the bees out of the box on a sheet, in front of the hive. See that the queen, as well as all the bees enter it. To prevent robbing the entrance should be contracted; and in a week, when the bees have fastened the combs, the transferring wires should be removed. Always work slowly with the bees, and avoid jarring.

Short Method of Transferring

§ 95. For the benefit of the apiarist who does not wish to do as difficult a job as the one just described, we will give an easier method, though less economical, of transferring the bees from box hives, or from movable frame hives in which the combs have been built crooked and are therefore immovable.

Instead of performing the operation at the blooming of fruit trees, it is delayed till early swarming time. A new hive with frames full of foundation or of comb already built is placed on the stand of the colony to be transferred. The bees are then driven as above directed and shaken in front of this new hive, taking good care that the queen is among them. This virtually makes an artificial swarm. Enough bees are returned to the old hive to enable them to take care of the brood and it is placed in close proximity of the new hive usually a little behind it. At the end of ten days destroy the queen-cells (6). After twenty-one days, the brood being hatched out of the combs (37), the bees are shaken in front of the new hive and the old hive and its combs entirely taken away to be handled at leisure. These combs contain only honey, which may be extracted (161), as the apiarist may see fit. If advisable, the bees of the old colony may be used to strengthen any small colony in the apiary. Being mainly young bees they will remain where given (36).

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