As the Hive Turns

Last month I realized my hive Saturn was facing a bit northerly. Our winter winds can be rather blustery, and I was worried about the cold blowing into the front of the hive. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it, until someone suggested on that I turn the hive around. So I did.


My hive Saturn on October 29, facing mainly northwest. Our winter winds would blow right into the entrance. © Erik Brown

Honey bees remember exactly where their entrance is. They can track their position in relation to the earth and the sun, so if a forager is within 2 or 3 miles of their hive they can fly straight to the entrance. As a result, a common beekeeper refrain is to move your hive less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles. Less than 3 feet and they probably find the new entrance; more than 3 miles and they are probably too far away to find their way to the old spot. To move a hive across the street, you move it more than 3 miles away, wait a few weeks, and then move it to the new spot across the street.

Since Saturn is a top bar hive around 3.5 feet long, turning it completely around would risk the bees not finding the new entrance. So between October 29 and November 12, I turned the hive a little every few days until it faced the other direction. I tried to take a similar picture each time, with marginal success. I gathered the pictures together and used the GIMP graphics editor to combine these into the following animated GIF image, where each images appears for about half a second so you can see the change over time. (Here are the instructions I used.)


Images from October 29 to November 12 showing how I turned my hive Saturn around so the entrance was more protected from the wind. © Erik Brown

Not bad for my first attempt at an animated image, if I may say so. After mostly warm weather this fall, the past week has been fairly cold, especially at night. Today it was warm again at 58 F (14 C) and the bees were cleaning out their hives and flying around the yard.

Apparently some of the bees in Saturn have not gotten the memo, as I took the following picture of the back of the hive today, where the entrance used to be. Oh well, hopefully these bees made it back to the new front and inside to cluster up for the evening.


The back of my hive Saturn today (November 24). It appears the bees are looking for the old entrance, which is now at the other end. © Erik Brown

As the World Turns

This American television soap opera appeared on the CBS network from 1956 to 2010, over 54 years. It was one of the first 30-minute serials on television, originally in black and white and moving to color 1967.

The song Turn, Turn, Turn would have been a good basis for this post, except that I already wrote the post To every hive there is a season based on this song last August. Ah well, the soap opera was my second choice and has the word “turn” in the title. So perhaps it is better.

Today is American Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful for my bees and my family, and for the fruits, vegetables, and other food that the over 20,000  species of bees worldwide help produce each year.

4 thoughts on “As the Hive Turns

  1. I like the animated gif. Very cool!

    I’ve moved hives many times in the past, completely disregarding the 3’/3mi rule. I just wait until nighttime and close up the entrances, then move them to where I want. I then place branches over the entrance and open them up again. The branches force exiting bees to reorient.

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


    • We had a very laid back Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. I hope you enjoyed your day as well.

      I’ve heard of the branches trick, will have to try that sometime. This was easy enough and I wanted to see how it worked. Apparently the bees aren’t totally happy with it, but animated GIF worked pretty well.


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