Colony spacing

Hive volume, spacing, design and management.
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Colony spacing

Post by A.K. » 06 Jun 2019, 22:09

Bee hives are widely dispersed to prevent apiary collapse.

The author's experience with crowding bee colonies in an apiary:
The author of this website had to deplore the collapse of an entire apiary in late fall 2015. The apiary was composed of twelve natural swarms collected in spring 2014 and 2015. Warré hives were arranged in a row and separated by 2-3 m, with their entrances facing east/south-east. Colonies were not treated against Varroa and all the honey was left for bees.

Symptoms fit to what is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD):
  • Colonies appeared healthy just weeks prior to collapse in autumn.
  • There were few or no dead bees in or around the hives.
  • All hives contained capped brood and abundant food stores (honey and bee bread).
Figure: A collapsed apiary showing symptoms of CCD.

Scientific background:
High rates of infestation with Varroa destructor are associated with colony collapse, and crowding honeybee colonies in apiaries can increase infestation rates (Seeley & Smith,2015). An apiary with crowded colonies is prone to collapse as mites from heavily infested colonies may easily spread to colonies with initially lower mite infestations through drifting. Increasing colony spacing even on a small scale - from 1 m to 30 m - is shown to be an effective mean to reduce drifting and thereby to increase survival of treatment-free colonies.

Conclusions for the SmallHiveProject:
Mite load reduction by natural swarming every year (favored here by a small hive volume) has to be accompanied by adequate spacing of colonies to avoid reinfestation and death of otherwise healthy colonies by drifting. In this way, colony collapse - as a consequence of high mite infestations - will hopefully be confined to individual colonies and to allow for more efficient natural selection. To promote wide colony disperal, the author of this website designed a tree mounting facility for the beehive.

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