HANDLING AND PREPARATION OF COLONIES STORED INDOORS: THE "INS" AND "OUTS"
By Brandon Hopkins
When colonies come out of storage they are especially eager to fly. They have been unable to defecate for months. There is a considerable amount of bee flight the first opportunity they have to fly. It is important to transport and load colonies out during the night and or in cold conditions. The potential for the loss of bees during transportation is great if they are provided conditions for flight. Research looking at the drifting of bees following indoor storage found there were significant losses in colonies placed in the field during daylight hours compared to colonies unloaded during the night (Jay and Harris 1979). They found the rate of drifting and the loss of bees to be greatest on the first day. It is widely reported that bees have a greater tendency to drift when colonies are set in rows in open spaces. It might be expected that the tendency to drift is exaggerated after indoor storage. Therefore, it is beneficial to take greater precautions to minimize the potential for drifting. This includes: pallets should be spaced out as far as possible, pallets not placed in straight rows, hive entrances oriented randomly, utilize smaller numbers of hives per location, place pallets in circular formations, etc.
Generally, colonies coming out of storage have much less brood compared to colonies wintered outdoors. This provides an opportune time to apply a Varroa treatment. Many beekeepers who have been successful at storing bees indoors allow a few days for the colonies to orient once they get on the ground in California and then they start a regiment of Varroa treatment and feeding (syrup and protein).