Rock Hill Honeybee Farms has made a major investment in expansion by purchasing 100+ two-story hives coming out of spring almonds from David Mendes in Maine for the blueberry pollination. Then Jerry truck his bees to Maine and Ohio for more contracts, did several splits as the bees were doing beautifully, and his apiary is now north of 400 colonies.
This season we had the good sense to keep to the northern geography of the State, cutting about five hours off the drive and keeping the work a little cooler.
I got off easy on this trip. Starting on Sunday Jerry was driving to Ohio to with a crew of four to consolidate his hives, and then load them on the flatbed truck. Because of the health of the colonies, the load coud only handle about 400 of what should be 460 hives due to their heavy weight. The hives are on four-way pallets and stacked three pallets high (double deeps). The temperature in Ohio was in the 40's, making for uncomfortable work. Then it was into the truck for the 16 hour trip to Tampa while the load followed about 8 hours behind. Transport costs for the trucker were significant, north of $2,500, so this exercise was not considered lightly.
I, however, could not afford to take off an entire week of work for this run, and while I like a good drive like the rest of us, I've done these torturous runs with Jerry too often to find a way to avoid one. And USAir had a ticket to Tampa out of Reagan National for about $150, so with that and a rental car I was well-rested and fresh for their arrival on Wednesday morning.
The truck rolled in around 6pm that evening (close to dusk), and that is when the fireworks started. So if you figure about 30,000 bees per colony, and 400 colonies, that's 12,000,000 bees. This trucker was very familiar with the hauling process, had all the bee netting, straps, boards, and know-how required to secure the load. When we removed the netting, that was when the bees went a little crazy.
Thank God for bee suits. The air was thick with bees, unhappy bees.
The trailer could not pull into the driveway of the lot upon which we were setting the pallets, so we had to leave it in the street and use a loader to drive the bees down the driveway and into the field. Total round trip, five minutes. Thankfully we had three loaders so we were able to unload the truck in 2 1/2 hours.
That's Jerry on the left in his impeccably clean ventilated bee suit.
Here is the video of our day: