November Feature – Hives on the Move
In so many of New Zealand’s beekeeping businesses, profitable beekeeping requires shifting of hives between sites to maximise each’s earning potential across the season. Now is a key period for it too, with tens of thousands of beehives coming in and out of kiwifruit orchards, so this month we feature a few of the options out there that make hive move faster, more efficient and safer.
Whether it’s to chase honey crops, pollinate food or seed crops, place the colonies somewhere more accessible for winter visits, or they just need to find a new home, hive moves are the domain of most beekeepers at some point in the season. When you are doing it with any scale, mechanising the process soon makes sense from a health, safety and economic perspective.
Two of the most popular, but quite different, mechanisations available to Kiwi beekeepers are the highly-efficient Avant loaders, available from Glenbrook Machinery in Auckland, and the truck-mount Ezyloader cranes. We check in with experts in both, and also find out how some Whanganui beekeepers are illuminating the hive-moving process.
The most efficient way to move large amounts of hives around the countryside is in pallet loads of four hives per pallet, which can mean hundreds of hives per truck load. There’s no better way of loading and unloading those millions of bees from their road transport than the range of Avant loaders, says Glenbrook Machinery’s Phil Pinker.
“They increase efficiencies with palletised hive handling. Being all-terrain they will go further than a standard vehicle and work well in conjunction with truck and crane set ups,” Pinker says.
Most beekeepers use the 600 and 700 series of the diesel-powered loaders.
“The 600 is perfect for most applications and keeps the towing or transport weight to a minimum. The 700 is the largest that can still be legally towed behind a vehicle keeping the GVM inside 3500 kilograms.”
Avants allow accurate and safe placement of hives on site, and Pinker says they are used by a wide range of beekeepers, from those chasing mānuka honey crops, as well as other floral varieties and, of course, for a range of pollination moves. It’s not just the movement of hives which they can assist beekeepers with either.
“The 4N1 bucket is ideal for maintaining tracks and repairing slips and the likes. The flail mower with hammer flails is a popular attachment for beekeepers as well, to break in overgrown grass and gorse areas,” Pinker says.
While their agency might be based in Auckland, they supply beekeepers all over the country and service agents are available nationwide. There are also hire and lease-to-own options for beekeepers to consider if they want to give the all-terrain loaders a trial.
Canterbury beekeeper Barry Hantz holds the New Zealand franchise for Ezyloader, hive-lifting cranes manufactured in New South Wales. He says they have two clear benefits to beekeepers – they save your back and mean hive moves can be made safely by one person.
“I have had a few enquiries and the reason they are buying Ezyloaders is because they can’t find staff to help them shift hives. The price of labour leads them to use an Ezyloader and do it themselves,” Hantz says.
While there are six different cranes in the range, Hantz says beekeepers tend to use either the 125, 200 or 300 models, with the numbers relating to their load capacity. Once mounted on a vehicle, Ezyloaders are connected to either 12 or 24volt electrics which powers a built-in hydraulic motor. Single hives or two to a pallet setups are generally used.
“Most of the guys with the 300s have their hives on double-pallets and are lifting two hives at a time. That is how our operation is set up and on a truck load of about 40 hives it takes about half an hour or less to load,” Hantz says.
They fit to utes or larger trucks and single-cab Toyota Land Cruisers are a popular choice, as well as trailer mounts. With a forklift or similar loader they only take about 15 minutes to detach and remove from their mountings too, meaning they can easily be transferred between vehicles or removed altogether if not required at certain times of the year.
There is very little servicing required “a few grease nipples and bearings to check once a year” says Hantz, while he has spare parts on hand at his Canterbury base.
An Illuminating Addition to Vehicles
The heavy lifting involved in moving hives is task enough when beekeepers can manage it in daylight hours, and even more challenging in the dark when many of the moves take place. Another device which makes the task much easier – and safer – is the red LED lights which Kai Iwi Honey supply to beekeepers.
“It’s simple, bees see black when they see red,” Tony Valentine of Kai Iwi honey explains.
Therefore, by illuminating trucks and apiaries with their lights, beekeepers can safely carry out hive loading and unloading at night without dealing with a mass of bees making their way to lights.
How strong are the LED’s glow? “I left them on on the loader while coming up the driveway last night and the neighbour’s house, 100 metres away, was well lit up,” Valentine says.
They fit to electrical systems with anywhere from 10 to 30 volts, and therefore are perfect for beekeeping vehicles which typically run on 12V or 24V systems, be they trucks or loaders.
“We have the lights fitted to both ends of our lifting arm on the truck, as well as a loader and the truck headboard,” Valentine says, describing perhaps the most well illuminated work site in the beekeeping world.