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Tetragonula Hockingsii hive transfer - moving native bees from one hive to another!

Recently we spit our Native Hockingsii bee hive. The two halves didn't match and my husband was keen to try an experimental hive that he envisioned while reading all the bee books he bought me for Christmas! So the first half was a straight split were we joined the good half to another standard sized Felhaber hive half.

The other half was too small and made from substandard wood. So instead of continuing to make do, we decided that we would try the fairly traumatic task of transferring the bees out of the hive entirely and put them in a brand new hive type.

Here's what we did...

*Please note: Another long involved post for those hungry for backyard bee information but pretty pictures for those who are keen but not yet converted to the fun of native bee keeping! Only my Mother is obliged to read it all!

The first half of the split was standard - here is the link to that page.
So that leaves us with the second half in the front of the above picture with the board against the split in an attempt to keep as many bees as possible in there and off our faces! This old half of the hive was constructed in 2008 by a friend of a mate's neighbour and is not a standard size. Its made of wood that's too thin as well. This gave my husband the opportunity to try an idea he has had ever since he gave me a full set of bee books for Christmas and then proceeded to read every single one before me!

Before I go into the new hive design, lets deal with the hive transfer itself.

We needed access to the whole brood and so we needed to take off the roof and expose at least two sides of the brood. So we used a hammer and chisel to prise off a roof that wasn't designed to come off. Hence putting it against the house and giving it a decent bash. The roof closest to the split holds the brood, the other 2/3 is the honey box.

The lid came off quite cleanly. The small part in the middle is where the brood is in a Felhaber hive. The long part is where they store the honey and pollen. If you open the long bit you will find honey not brood! Hockingsii in a hive like this have the brood in the middle and keep their honey and pollen supplies near the entrances.

This is a great shot of the brood! Take photos as quickly as you can from many angles as the bees are going to swarm around you, getting into every nook and cranny you have and you won't be spending much time looking at the amazing structures when you are splitting or transferring them. Pop a tea towel over your head - it really helps! You can appreciate the bees work much later with a cuppa and a big screen computer monitor!

Back up on the table and my husband has already used the knife and sliced around the edges of the brood. sides, back and bottom. Just like getting a cake out of a tin but much more traumatic... for both humans and bees alike!

Using a fish slice (egg flipper thingummy) he simply lifted the whole thing out of the original hive. There are a few pictures that are almost the same so you can follow the procedure.

Very gently and slowly he lifted the whole brood out using his fingers to steady the brood. Remember these guys don't sting so its not a biggie when they get stroppy. I got two stuck in my eye lashes and they gave me a decent nip but other than the initial pain, and it's not much really, there is no swelling, itching, redness or any indication that they bit me at all.

From the back. My husband reckoned he could feel part of the brood falling in half probably where the join between new and old cells is... He managed to hold it all together and get it into the new hive.

Here it is going into the new hive. it goes in the same way that it did in the old hive. There is a school of thought that says they will sort it out no matter how you jam it in there but we are keen to give them every opportunity to survive our experimental hives...

So here is the other half of  Hockingsii brood from the original hive sitting in its new experimental hive. This is my husbands design which we have nick named the FROTH and I will explain more about it in a moment.

With the front of the hive put in and the supporting mesh in place. It is squashing the brood slightly... (Sorry guys.) The mesh is to support the brood during a split. In the picture below you can see that the hive is made to split top to bottom. So there is a front half and a back half. The idea is that hives wont be split into old and new as they grow sideways into the new half as the Felhaber hive currently works, but will be split with some old and some new brood for each hive.

The dividers for the hive and honey boxes going on... The dividers are to stop the bees from creating brood all the way to the top of the hive. They also have a split in them so you can run the knife straight down the middle.

 The standard OATH tropical lid and half size honey super goes on and now it looks more like a Carbonarii hive.  Its the same dimensions as a Carbonarii hive which are usually easier to place in a garden as they are more stable and take up less room.

Again, the joints are all sealed with masking tape to deter any predators until the bees sort it out. This type of hive is usually heavy and stable and doesn't need the aluminium bracing that the longer Felhaber hives do...

And then these guys are placed back where they were originally in the shelter of the chook coop where I will see them every time I collect eggs or remove broody chickens... So far so good. They seem to be zooming in and out and any bees that weren't locked inside the other hive that went to Anni's will make their way back here by the end of the day. Native bees have built in GPS's that enable them to find their way home from about 5km away. So the other half has to go much further than that otherwise they will all just head for home if you just take them next door!

Hive names:
Felhaber: Standard Hockingsii hive created by Mr Felhaber of Rockhampton
OATH: Original Aussie Trigona Hive for Carbonarii bees
KITH: Klummpy's Insulated Trigona Hive for either Carbonari or Hockingsii as far as I can tell...
FROTH: Froggy's 'Riginal Other Type Hive designed for Hockingsii

Some bee sites that are worth checking out!

As for the honey half of this hive - there's another post on honey harvesting to come! Stay posted!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for helping with the proliferation of native bees!
Frugal-ness: 3/5 Bee hives aren't cheap even if you make your own...
Time cost: About 15 minutes for this split!
Skill level: You'll want the confidence from doing a few splits before attempting a transfer like this I think!
Fun-ness: More traumatic than fun at the time!


Linda said…
Wow! Fascinating! The hives and formation are so different to a regular bee hive. I recently transferred my bees to a new box because the old one was falling apart. It went quite well. I'm amazed by how tolerant the bees are!
Kim said…
That was amazing reading. Do the bees produce alot of honey?
Love the idea of non stinging bees!
Practical Frog said…
Hi Guys! By regular do you mean Italian commercial honey bees? If so, then yes, its very different isn't it? Have you seen a carbonari hive? They are spirals!Stingless bees are fantastic - but you only get a kilo of honey a year out of each hive... But if you're selling it, native honey is worth $60-$65 per kilo! We just eat ours! Yummmm! - K x
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