Sunday, 23 August 2009


Another inspection, and again I'm quite pleased with how the bees seem to be doing. In both hives the Apiguard was going down well, with less than half remaining. It seems then that I'll pop in the second treatment 2 weeks after the first. There seems to have been some debate about the correct timing of this. I've heard it said that the two treatments should be 3 weeks apart to cover 2 full brood cycles. However, with both the instructions on the box and my experienced colleagues at Ealing saying 2 weeks I'm more inclined to follow this, especially since the bees are consuming it so fast that by leaving it longer there would be a period in the middle with no Apiguard in the hive at all. I checked the varroa floors, and indeed there were lots of dead, red mites so it seems the Apiguard is having an effect.

So the colonies looked well. Eggs and larvae were present in both, though in hive2 the stores again looked low. I actually took 2 half-filled super-frames of stores from hive1 and put these in hive2 since I am a little concerned, and hive1 seems to have an excess since I did not take off much when I harvested the honey. In general such mixing of kit between hives is not to be recommended for disease prevention reasons, but since the hives are so closely sited anyway I've decided to allow it in this case. I again saw the queen in hive1, with the dodgily applied green splodge I'd given her previously.

I'm procrastinating on moving the hives out to Gerrards Cross, but I'll have to get cracking in the next week since I want them settled by Autumn. In preparation, I covered the holes in the crown-boards with plastic mesh which I pinned down. That way I can transport them with the roofs off the hives and the bees can't get out: I'll be putting big straps around the hives top-to-bottom, and if the roofs were still on those straps would not be quite secure due to the way the roofs overhang.

Sunday, 16 August 2009


Bees bees bees. It's been a busy time for my beekeeping recently. Following the honey extraction I replaced the wet supers back in the hive for the bees to clean up. I returned today to find the girls had done an excellent job. Today's task was to apply Apiguard, the anti-varroa treatment. It comes in flatish packets which have a peel-off lid and are then put into the hive above the brood. It was pretty simple to put these in - I put a super on top of hive2 to give the Apiguard some space and removed some frames from the upper super in hive 1 so I could put the Apiguard sachet in. Also, I replaced the varroa boards, put in a partial entrance blocks and actually taped around the varroa boards to make things a little more air-tight. This is advisable since the idea is to make the atmosphere inside heavy with Apiguard. It's a thyme-based application, and my understanding is that it stays in the hive longer if the hive is better sealed. I am due to apply another similar sachet to each hive in 2-3 weeks so as to cover a couple of brood cycles and blitz those little mites.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Extraction !

Honey extraction day. Very exciting.

It came as a bit unexpectedly. Talking to a guy who keeps bees very local to me, he said his association (actually not local at all, but in Barnet) was coordinating Apiguard treatment for tomorrow, so that all hives would be done at the same time to greatly increase the effectiveness against varroa across the area. The exact precision of coordination is probably a little unnecessary, but I'm keen to join the crowd on this one - anything to help battle varroa and keep the numbers at bay. So, since honey should really be taken off before Apiguard treatment, I dragged Nat down to the hives to help me juggle the supers and frames.

The hive inspections were interesting in themselves. We started in hive2 (brood box only, no supers). The bees looked healthy, and there were lots of capped and uncapped brood, some eggs, but I could not see the queen. What slightly bothered me though was the lack of decent honey stores. It seemed strange there was so much brood and so little honey. I was left wondering whether in the recent fiddly moves of the hive around with site some of the foragers had indeed gone AWOL.

Hive 1 (brood-and-a-half plus one honey super) seemed healthy and vigorous too. Again the queen eluded me, but the full range of eggs and larvae were present, and there were some decent honey stores too. Rather than taking away the whole honey super, which in any case was far from full, I decided to selectively remove super frames to get myself some honey to play with but leave a decent amount for the bees (quite a bit which anyhow was uncapped). Nat and I juggled 5 honey-heavy frames into plastic bags after shaking and brushing the bees off, sealing the bags quickly as we went.

Quickly home to extract the honey. I've got a pretty basic 2-frame tangential extractor. It's quite manual and a bit fiddly, and by the end there was honey on the kitchen work surfaces, the floor, me, everywhere. From the 5 frames I managed to get a motley collection of 13 jars, probably amounting to 11-12 pounds of honey (sorry - beekeeping still appears to be somewhat stuck in the imperial measurements age).

I'm delighted to have the honey now. For a season's work I don't have many jars, and of course most of it will be given away. The jars are few because the colonies are new this year, and I totally missed out on the decent honey flow of spring when the weather was pretty good this year. However, just to have something small to show makes me feel very satisfied, and has encouraged me further in this fascinating hobby.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sunflowers and bees

I grew some sunflowers in the back garden with the kids, and the honey bees love 'em. The bees shown here are probably from the local feral colonies, or perhaps even from Graham's hives in one of the other communal gardens just over the road.
Lovely pictures, eh?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Mother in Law to the rescue?

It looks like there's a chance I can move the bees to Gerrards Cross where my mother in law lives, surrounded by England's loveliest garden. There's a perfect spot for hives on a flat roof there: sheltered, full sun, very private, I can obviously drive right up to the house, and I can store kit there too. Perfect . . .apart from it being good 30min drive away, traffic permitting, and it'd not longer "London" honey. I'd much rather have something just around the corner. However, unless something else falls in to my lap then I'll have to take this opportunity.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Voice of experience

Margaret kindly came on site today to take a look over things. She confirmed that what I thought was varroa is varroa, but was unsure what the other, tiny mites are. We did a very quick inspection of each hive (couple of frames of each) and in hive1 we uncapped some drone brood. An important part of the varroa mite life cycle is inside capped brood cells, and they do prefer drone brood. The rule of thumb is that an infestation of 2-3 mites per larva is thought of as a bad infestation. In my hive, of the 5 drone brood we uncapped we found 6 mites, so yes I do have a varroa problem, but it's one of a level fairly typical of hives these days. I'm going to buy some Apiguard and apply it to reduce infestation levels. I can only apply this, though, after I take off any honey I want to, so I've got to get cracking on this.

Another observation we had is that hive1's brood-and-a-half is a little superfluous since hive has enough space in the main brood body. Therefore the next inspection is going to be a matter of finding the queen, making sure she's in the main brood body, putting the queen excluder above this box and replacing the 2 supers above it. I'll then need to wait the few weeks to make sure all the brood in those supers emerges, and then I can take off some honey. Then I can apply the Apiguard. This will leave me too late in the year really, so I'd better get cracking, and shave some time somewhere. Also, I'll need to be careful to leave the bees with enough stores. I know I'll need to feed them this winter, but I am keen to leave them a generous supply of their own honey too.

It's fair to say that Margaret was pretty impressed with how healthy and vigorous the bees seemed. This is an enormous relief to hear. It's the first time a more experienced beekeeper has looked inside my hives, and it's comforting to hear that I've not done anything stupid. Yet.

The site issues are still of great concern to me. Given that I have to move the hives off to another site, I'd prefer to do this sooner rather than later. This will be tricky.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


I found out that those thousands of mites I saw the other day are not varroa. I had thought them too small, not sufficiently rosy in colour and and not enough like crabs. I was right. I don't know what they are, but they're not varroa. I know this since I found some varroa mites on the varroa floors of both my hives today! Clearly varroa: red and crablike. Argh! I took a sample of both mites into a sealed container and took them home for temporary storage in my freezer to kill them before having them microscoped by someone who knows their bugs. And I totally removed the varroa floor in both hives too.

I also made yet another move of hive2 today. The bees seemed to handle the small move fine. I now have only another 50cm or so to the final desired location, close to a wall at the side of the site.

No news on potential other sites yet. I spoke with some people in the Capital Growth / Food For London group who made some encouraging noises, though this will take a while to come off if at all. I've got many feelers out with other people and organisations too. The trick, though, is to be able to find a local site. If instead I am presented with a site too far away in London then I may well just serve it up to another beekeeper or beekeeping association who is more local since this really makes the most sense. There are many deserving beekeepers out there who'd love a good site. I do feel strangely confident that I'll get a good site, though I know it might well be tricky. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Terrible news. I spoke with the site manager this evening who told me to get both hives off site as soon as possible. Is it relevant that he referred to the drop in pond level being due to the bees (though I've been surprised to never seeing them drinking there)? No. Fundamentally, it's been decided that having bees on that site is not feasible since it will interfere with use by people. It's a great shame since I have seen bees work so well on other sites such as many allotments, but each site has its own priorities and I respect that. It's just unfortunate that this decision has been made after I initially had permission, and then moved bees on site. So much for my crafted discussion document of last week. I wish I had been in last week's Nature Reserves Forum meeting.

So that's that. I'll really need to get cracking looking for another site, and if it's to be at all geographically convenient for me to look after I'll have to somehow deal with the battle of moving them less than 3 miles. Perhaps I can stealth in at night when they're all asleep, or something, and then keep then sheeted up on the new site for a good while. I'll ask around to see what advice I might get. Nightmare.

MITES! Creeping, creeping.

I took out the varroa floor of hive1 today and was horrified to see it covered in thousands of very tiny mites which were crawling around. This is terrible news. I don't know if they are varroa. It seems like a fair bet, but the mites seemed smaller and less red that my limited varroa experience told me they might be. I've put calls out to a few colleagues to get a second opinion, and am purchasing some medicine immediately. I'll also remove the varroa floor from both hives straight away so there will only be an open mesh floor through which the mites will fall.

Also, I moved hive2 a little more today. The move was barely 1 meter, but still the returning foragers took a time relocating. Again it was interesting that they seemed to start their extended search at the location where the hive had been yesterday morning, i.e. where it had been before I started any of these mini-moves. However, I think the bees eventually got the point and I decided to leave them to it and to return in a day or so for another mini-move to get that hive nearer to the edge of the site and hence in a less obtrusive location.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Emergency delivery

Quite a bee day today: I got a call this evening from Malcolm, a top bloke and one of the Ealing lot who was the recipient of the swarm I caught in my street (with Nicky) back in May. His colony had swarmed, and he had no box to put them in. I jumped in the car and up to his place to give him the floor, brood box, 10 frames, crown board and roof I just happened to have in the boot. Always nice to do someone a favour, especially someone who has so readily taken me under his wing for bee-advice. The shame is that he'll be unable to keep the bees in his garden since he thinks only 1 site works there. The other great shame, of course, is that there's no chance of me putting the colony next to mine - I'd love to but it's not even worth asking permission right now. Hopefully Malcolm will find a good home for them, and somehow manage to juggle my kit back to me.

Edit: Malcolm decided to keep the colony in his back garden after all. Great news - hope he keeps the neighbours happy with enough honey now he's got 2 hives there!

Hive inspection

Another hive inspection day today. It went well. It's been dreadful weather recently. Lots of rain over the past week and very little sun. Today was warm (over 25c) and the bees were out flying when I arrived on site despite the intermittent sun.

First, hive one (brood-and-a-half plus one honey super). The comb in the honey super was a little more built out, but again the outer few frames were still little better than over-embossed foundation. In the central frames, though, there were 5 frame faces of capped honey. In the brood boxes, there was the usual encouraging mix of honey, pollen (a little light on this?), eggs (in both boxes), large and small uncapped larvae, and capped larvae. I did not see the queen, but the presence of the eggs was enough to satisfy me that all was functioning properly. One thing I did do was to swap 2 of the frames from the brood super into the honey super. They came from the outside of the brood super, and were honey which was largely capped. I moved it into the outside of the honey super. I'm keen to get one super's worth of honey (~30 jars) out of the bees this year - it would be a real milestone and high-point of the season. It shouldn't be beyond these bees - they do seem so healthy and despite the terrible weather we've had recently if the next few weeks are fine they'll certainly have no excuse not to fill at least one super.

Hive two (single brood box, no supers) is also in good shape. There was a good combination of honey (some), pollen, eggs, uncapped larvae and capped larvae (lots!). I was left wondering whether there was enough honey for the impending births to eat. The apparent slight shortage might well be down to the fact that it's a relatively new colony combined with the recent duff weather. There were still 2 frames at the back of the box which so not have drawn out comb. Hopefully the weather will be good enough for the foragers to get busy drawing out this comb and filling it up with nectar in the coming week. When I do my next inspection (~10 days) I'll have a super waiting by in case they look like they'll need room to expand. Oh, and I saw the queen too. She's got a white spot, and I've got to admit it's a lot easier to spot than the green dot on the queen in hive 1, especially with my marginal red/green colour vision deficiency. I'll have to get some more experienced keeper to persuade me that the regime of colour coding per year is really worth it, else I'm tempted to go down the route of always marking my queens in white as some other keepers do.

What follows, I think, is interesting, and I'll blog it for the record (for me as much as anything else). Now, I also tried to move hive 2 closer to the edge of the site to try to address the concerns of the site manager that the hives would interfere with use of the site. I've prepared a board for the hive to sit on quite close to a wall, and this morning the hive was about 3 meters away from this board. Moving the hive isn't too much of a challenge since it's only stand+floor+brood box+crown-board+roof, and I can just about grapple this from the top and stagger short distances with it. I tried moving it about half the distance to the desired site. No luck. Returning foragers congregated at the old site in ever increasing numbers, looking for their lost home with no success. Watching the hive entrance, I saw foragers leaving but none returning. I waited 10 minutes or so, but there was no change to the situation. Perhaps I could have waited longer, but I decided to move the hive back, to around 1 meter (perhaps a little more) away from the original site. As I stood back I saw the landing board covered with returning foragers. Amazing - I mean I only moved the hive 40-50 centimeters back! After 5 minutes or so the air around the hive have pretty much normalised and cleared of the excess of foragers. Now, here's the interesting part. I returned in the afternoon (a few hours later) and tried moving the hive another meter away. No luck, and again the returning foragers could not find the hive. However, instead of returning to the location they had left from, they instead started buzzing around the location where the hive had originally been early that morning. I moved the hive back a little and again the foragers suddenly crowded the landing board. It does seem, then, that bees do take a while to re-normalise their sense of location of home, and have a memory of "previous home". Sure, I've hardly been very scientific here, but it's not my intention to experiment. Back to the point: I'll pop back in the next couple of days to make other small hive moves with the intention of getting hive 2 into a more discrete position within the site. I do so hope this will satisfy the powers that be. Let's see.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Why have bees in London

I wrote a piece to argue the case for having bees on the small nature reserve where I have them right now. It's a shame I was not able to go to the meeting (Camden Nature Reserves Forum) where this was due to be discussed since I was away on holiday with the family. I spend some time writing the pitch, so thought it worth sharing some of it here for the record. I'll find out how the meeting went in the next couple of days.

Honey Bees in London?


• Honey bees are of critical importance to the environment and to human food production
• Honey bees are in trouble, with many threats leading to reducing numbers
• In London, honey bees can do relatively well compared to their country compatriots, but the availability of good urban sites is quite limited, especially in central areas.
• Should any London urban nature reserves be used to accommodate bees? What type of reserves might be appropriate, and what might the challenges be of trying this?
• A suggestion is made that interested parties meet at GP to discuss some pertinent points and, if willing, to enjoy assisting in a hive inspection.

Honey bees are important

Honey bees are of enormous benefit to local flora, and hence fauna too. They visit flowers to gather nectar and pollen which are taken back to the hive. The nectar is processed to make honey and then stored in wax capped cells. The pollen, being protein rich, is also stored as a foodstuff primarily for the young larvae. As the bees forage from flower to flower they spread pollen from one plant to another and hence pollinate the plants. Honey bees can forage over three miles from their hive.

With honey bee numbers diminishing alarmingly across this country (and others), it's important to help conserve the species which is responsible for 80% of all insect pollination worldwide. Most flowering plants in London are pollinated by honey bees, and hence they are a very important part of the lifecycle of a huge range of flora from wild flowers to large trees. Honey bees also pollinate many food producing plants which are common in London, examples of which are apple, cherry, hazel, pear, plum, blackberry, cucumber, onion, squash, sunflower, blueberry, cranberry, coriander, carrot, strawberry, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, brussel sprout, turnip, chestnut and quince to name but a few. It is estimated that one third of our diet is directly dependent on the relationship between flowers and their pollination by bees, with double this number dependent via indirect effects (such as animal feeds). In these plants if bees were not available then pollination would not take place and seeds would not be set.

Of course the bees also produce honey. Beekeepers can carefully remove some of this honey, though this must be balanced with the need of the bees. This important foodstuff is used as winter stores since although many bees work themselves to death in the summer, many thousand will survive through the winter so the colony can be up and running again early the following year. Even in the bleakest winter a healthy colony will contain about 10,000 bees. One of the benefits of this is that the bees are available in the early spring in some numbers when flowers such as snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are flowering. These flowers are essential for the bees as the colony expands in early spring. A this time there are no other insects available to pollinate the flowers, and it’s only honey bees living in a warm, dry and nourished colony that can take advantage of the odd sunny day to nip out and forage. A few weeks later the weather is warmer and bumble bees and other insect pollinators are building up. Even then the honey bee colony is much stronger with a huge foraging force available - in the height of summer a colony has over 50,000 bees.

Problems for the honey bee

The current plight of the honey bee is well publicised. The problem is virtually global, with one third of colonies being wiped out in single years in areas of some countries. Interestingly, it seems that in general the situation in London is somewhat better, though some local beekeepers have lost a large number of colonies over winter. However, no reliable data exists. Whilst opinion is divided on exactly what the principal cause is to this global problem, there is a growing consensus that it’s likely to be a combination of stress factors. Top of the list if the varroa mite, a tiny blood-sucking parasite which is a problem since it spreads disease. One such disease is Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. Other diseases exist, older well established ones being American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood. Both of these are notifiable diseases (bee inspector must be called in) and the treatment for the former is to destroy the colony. One newer disease is a fungus called nosema which is thought by some to be the main driver for colony collapse. However, whilst this list of diseases is a long one, there are other drivers to the bee deaths. Pesticides and herbicides are blamed by many due to direct and indirect effects on the bees. Many of these have been banned over time for directly causing bee deaths but, where effects are more subtle, proving that adverse effects exist is much more challenging as is the banning of chemicals. Another, more subtle effect of the herbicides is their effect on reducing the amount of forage available to the bees. It’s interesting to note that honey yields from city hives are generally quite a lot higher than from hives in the countryside. Initially this sounds quite counter-intuitive, but the plight of the country honey bee is clear to see when considering the combined effects of increasing herbicide effectiveness, farming being undertaken with huge mono-cultures, and the reduction of hedgerows. Interestingly, one hundred years ago there were around one million kept bee hives in the UK. Today there is less than a third of this number. Feral bee colonies do exist, but are now relatively rare since wild colonies tend to fall victim to the various bee diseases within a few years.

Honey bee sites in London?

It is estimated that there are 2000 beekeepers in London, but only a portion of these are active due to the challenges of accessing appropriate sites. Hives are somewhat common on allotments, though these few in more central areas. Bees are kept on roofs (the Royal Festival Hall, for example), in large private gardens (Buckingham Palace, for example), on the balconies of tower blocks, and even on boats (a barge owner on the Regents Canal keeps a hive there).

Positioning a hive does not require a huge amount of space. On warm days there will be many bees constantly leaving and entering the hive, but the bees generally fly about in the area 1-2 meters in front of the hive before buzzing higher. In confined spaces it’s possible to site the hive facing a wall or other barrier, and the bees deal with this easily by simply buzzing straight up to 3-5 meters, their typical foraging altitude, after they leave the hive.

What does beekeeping itself entail? Approaches vary between beekeepers regarding feeding bees in lean times and in administering disease prevention substances. However, one common activity, in spring and summer the hives are opened for inspection on a weekly basis to check that the bees are healthy and that the queen is laying. Extra vigilance is needed in spring and early summer to minimise the likelihood of some of the bees swarming to another site. They can do this as a way of propagating their colonies, with the old queen leaving with half of the workers. Swarm management techniques are important both to maintain a vigorous number of bees in the original colony and to avoid angering local residents. Whilst bees are currently popular in the minds of the public, irrational fears and ignorance are still widespread. Most people have a relatively mild reaction to stings. A tiny portion of people can, however, have a powerful reaction called anaphylactic shock which requires immediate medical attention. Bees are, however, not aggressive unless directly provoked.

Ideally hives should be sited in discrete places out of the way of the general public and potential nuisance. It helps to have them sited away from overlooking buildings – many people who live next door to well positioned hives don’t even know it. It’s very useful to have good vehicular access to the hives since this makes the carriage of heavy hive boxes much less onerous to the beekeeper. This access can be especially challenging in London with parking so restricted as it is. Also, it’s good to keep 2 hives as a stable minimum in a location. The colonies do not interact (save for a little drift of bees between them if too close, which is not desirable) but there are benefits from the beekeeping perspective. If a colony becomes week it is possible to repopulate it from another hive, whilst taking care to do so with techniques to stop the bees fighting. If one of the queens dies or becomes unproductive, it’s possible to re-queen from the other colony. This can either be done by inserting queen cells (protected initially) from the stronger colony, or by inserting eggs from the stronger colony which the workers will then be able to develop on into a queen rather than a worker by a special feeding regime. More basically, it allows for comparisons between the hives to help give clues to how each colony is doing given a particular site and set of weather conditions. It is not necessary to have more than one hive per site, but it makes beekeeping easier and helps the beekeeper in taking measures against some of the problems bees can run up against. Other desirable aspects of a hive site is that it is somewhat sheltered, relatively dry (best with few overhanging branches which can drip), and with access to direct sunshine on the hive itself (early morning sun on the front of the hive is ideal). A perfect combination of factors is unlikely on many sites in London where space is at a premium.

Bee hives on a nature reserve – reasons and issues

“London Wildlife Trust . . . manages over fifty London-wide reserves and campaign to save important wildlife habitats, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, volunteering programmes and education work.” LWT is not the only group to manage reserves in London, but its tagline is fairly typical for many of the groups, the aims typically being to both promote and conserve wildlife, and also to promote public understanding of and involvement in that wildlife.

So, what of locating bee hives on nature reserve land? It seems clear that using some such land for the purpose of hosting bee hives ticks many boxes on the wildlife conservation and promotion agendas. However, even conservation workers who appreciate the benefits that honey bees provide might feel understandably wary when standing next to a thriving hive. This might restrict full and normal access to a nature reserve for conservation workers if hives are poorly positioned.

What of the other purpose of many nature conservation sites: to engage the public? Compared to conservation workers, concerns regarding the general public are perhaps greater since these people are often invited onto site, and may well be more nervous and ignorant of honey bees. The importance of this concern depends on the positioning of hives and the amount and type of public access on the site. On the flip side, there are possibilities to get the local community more involved in a nature reserve because of the bees. Beekeeping is a fascinating and rewarding hobby in which there is widespread public interest. I was recently involved in a project run by Ealing Beekeepers in Perivale Wood nature reserve. Groups of children attended over the course of a week to hear more about bees and undertake some interactive experiences such as candle making. We secured funding for enough bee-suits to clothe groups of children and I presented bees and beekeeping whilst showing them a rare feral colony. The children gained a lot from this experience and it’s a project that we hope to reproduce in future.

So, there are good arguments for keeping honey bees on various types of sites across London, and some challenges too. Honey bees are beneficial both to the environment and London residents. It’s not a simple decision to put bees on any given site, even a site which is a nature reserve. After considering these benefits and challenges, there are open questions as to whether London based nature conservation groups are able and willing to help in siting hives in London.

Bees at GP

GP is an LWT managed nature reserve in Maida Vale. It is a small site which is overhung by several large trees. The site's history is unclear, but there's a story that there used to be an old coach-house there. It has been a nature reserve for many years now, and several years ago bees were briefly kept on the site. The centre of the site is taken up by a huge copper beach and there is a pond with frogs, toads and newts. An ancient mulberry tree lies horizontal but still fruits in the summer, and near this there is a fox den.

GP is very close to my house, hence low food miles on the honey. I mostly cycle there but am forced to drive when carrying heavy hive boxes, though luckily my parking permit covers me right outside the door. Having asked and been given permission to keep two hives there, I moved one on site at the beginning of June and another in mid July. Both colonies appear to be doing well. Shortly after installing the second hive, concerns were raised about the impact bees would have both on the maintenance of the site and the use of the site by visitors. The latter is currently limited, but there are potential plans to increase use. Possible responses are to better position the hives on site, or to remove one or both of the hives. Moving hives off site is a challenge, since there’s a general beekeeping rule of “less than 3 meters or more than 3 miles” since if a hive is moved any distance between this then the bees will return to the old site rather than the new one and probably die. Hives moved more than 3 miles are generally OK since the old site is not in the foraging area and hence the bees return to the new site. Hives moved less than 3 meters will usually be found again. “In-between” moves are not impossible, but certainly risky for a colony. In fact I saw this myself when trying to relocate the second hive further into an unused part of the site (next to a wall, next to the first hive). I moved it over completely (only 3-4 meters) and witnessed a growing mass of bees (returning foragers) buzzing in the space above where the hive had been before. When I moved the hive back to half way between old and new positions the swarm in the air slowly started to disappear and I saw bees entering the hive. The alternative, of course, is to find an alternative site more than 3 miles from GP. I don’t find it appropriate to regularly drive this far to look after the bees, so such a move would mean me having to find an alternative beekeeper to take on the bees.