Most beekeepers that venture into providing beehives for pollination services will often use holding yards. Holding yards are needed when large quantities of hives are temporarily transported to one location while they wait to be moved into orchards or summer locations. Listed below are some strategies to help reduce the stress on hives while they wait in a holding yard.
Each year at the end of March I unload a semi load of bees into a holding yard where they will stay until the local fruit orchards begin to bloom. Depending on the weather, My hives will remain in this holding yard for one to three weeks. Having so many hives in one location has some advantages, but ultimately will add stress to many of the hives.
The biggest advantage of holding yards is the convenience of being able to work so many hives in one location. In a matter of a few hours I can check, feed, test or treat hundreds of hives.
During the short stay in the holding yard there is no vegetation in bloom which leads to many of the weak hives being robbed out by the strong hives. When a lot of robbing takes place the risk of disease and mites being spread goes up. I have to be watchful that with so many bees in one place they don’t bother the nearby chicken or dairy farm.
Steps to Help Hives in Holding Yard
- Feed hives often
- Provide a water source
- Distract the bees with candy
- Move hives ASAP
Feed Hives Often
When my hives come back from California they are ramping up brood for their spring buildup. Most of the hives have much larger clusters than when they left in January. Each hive consumes significantly more food than in the winter and need to be fed several times each week while they sit in the holding yard. Without this extra feeding some hives will starve to death or the queen will stop laying eggs.
Provide a Water Source
Unless it has recently rained there is no water source for my hives so I provide one for them. I fill up one or two barrels with water and place them about thirty yards away the hives. To help the bees get the water out of the barrel I place either a wood float, tumble weeds or a small section of a snow fence inside.
Distract the Bees with Candy
I purchase scrap candy from a local candy maker and place it on sheets of plywood. I don’t feed it directly into the hives. The candy is only a distraction to help prevent the strong hives from robbing the weak hives.
Move Hives ASAP
If the hives are left too long in the holding yard they will begin to dwindle. All the extra feed won’t help them as much as being moved to a good spring location with access to lots of blossoms. I move my hives out of the holding yard as soon as their spring locations are ready.