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Adapting a trailer for moving/keeping bees on.

 
pollinator
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This idea popped up on my facebook feed yesterday and I think it is really neat. It solves a lot of problems that I have with my beekeeping.

The basic idea is to take the old chassis of a caravan, rip the upper parts off just leaving the basic frame. Then construct a custom platform above, to securely keep your hives on. With appropriate strapping the whole trailer, bees and all, can be towed to a new location, then the trailer levelled with jacks/bricks and the hives opened. The central decking allows the hives to be inspected, and all work happens at a comfortable height. The trailer in the attached images supports 15 langstroth hives, each one securely anchored in an angle iron support.

Being able to move hives has some serious advantages in my area. The agricultural nectar flows tend to be intense, but localised and short lived. Oilseed rape, for example, lasts for about 3 weeks here, early in the year. Colonies that get to work OSR early in the year build up really well and go on to make good honey harvests from other flowers. In years where I have had OSR adjacent to my apiary I notice substantial differenced in spring build up to the years where it is further away, or out of forage range altogether. I'm currently very time poor in the beekeeping season, and moving my hives without a trailer like this is sufficiently difficult that it is essentially impossible. Close the hives, hitch it up, and go.

It also resolves problems with uneven ground, weed growth around hives and the like because you can elevate the whole working platform. Useful on my sloping ground where each hive currently needs to be painstakingly levelled.

I'm parking this info here for now, as I think this will something that develops over many months.

Any thoughts, from those with fabrication experience? I haven't welded anything on this scale before.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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Here are the photos.
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pollinator
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Michael, that's a brilliant idea. I think it's especially well-suited to what you have planned.

I am not a fan of what commercial "apiarists" do with their bees, as it's less like taking them to food and more like pollination prostitution, except the pimp doesn't pay the girls.

This, however, seems more like a hive tractor.

On a separate note, that caravan chassis looks like it would do quite well as the base for a number of projects. To be honest, what popped to mind, rather than hive tractor was something more along the lines of those composting chicken tractors I have seen on Geoff Lawton's videos, but with a multi-stage (mealworms, BSFLs, vermiculture) macro-decomposer element to process what the chickens initially leave (working with the "first bite" grazing methodology) into protein.

Those are great photos. Thanks, incidentally, for the bit about oilseed rape. Our varieties are a little different, and we've branded them Canola, but I wonder if the same colony-supporting dynamic can be observed.

A more bee-oriented idea I just had was that the trailer could serve as the basis for a purpose-built winch and crane or gantry system you might use to assist in the lifting of individual boxes.

I would love to see how it goes, so please keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
Michael Cox
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I also dislike the commercial/industrial beekeeping practices, but in any case they are not as prevalent over here. I wouldn't be moving colonies more than 10 miles in any direction from home, I don't treat or feed my colonies. But I do like the analogy to a chicken tractor.

I do split my colonies each summer and raise nucs. Unfortunately the good weather tends to coincide with a local dearth here, so they can be slow to get going. I have thought for a while that it would be good to take nucs out to a crop with a good flow going (sainfoin hay fields if I can find it!).
 
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I think its a great idea, particularly since the heavy lifting has been eliminated.
I believe that if the commercial beekeepers were not present, the food supply would be severely impacted.
I dont have any issues with how they operate
 
Michael Cox
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John C Daley wrote:I think its a great idea, particularly since the heavy lifting has been eliminated.
I believe that if the commercial beekeepers were not present, the food supply would be severely impacted.
I dont have any issues with how they operate



Without getting into too much detail, the commercial beekeeping industry, particularly in America, is driven by the money associated with pollination contracts - especially for almonds. To reach the almond fields bees a trucked huge distances, and all concentrated in a small area where they share diseases. Then they are trucked home and take those diseases back.

Getting the bees ready requires unseasonal feeding, so that they raise plentiful brood earlier in the year than their home climate would usually allow. Hence the beekeepers are looking for traits that have nothing to do with local adaptation to climate and forage, and everything to do with how well they respond to feeding and medication.

If this were cattle that stayed fenced in I would say they could crack on with it, but the combination of disease importation and genetics that are not locally adapted directly impacts the health and success of the local resident population.
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