When most people think of apiaries, they probably imagine a few small hives tended by an eccentric man in an unusual hat, but commercial beekeeping and honey manufacturing is big business and can be particularly profitable with large hives. However, hives both large and small must be relocated frequently, both for harvesting purposes and to maximise hive productivity, and commercial-scale apiaries often use forklifts to speed up the transportation of their larger hives.
As you can imagine, hive relocation is a specialised task, and it requires a specialised forklift to get the job done right. As such, you should keep an eye out for the following key features when shopping around for a new or used forklift, as they can make your forklift both more effective and easier to operate:
Your forklift will probably have to navigate some pretty rough terrain as it moves around your apiary, so you should pick a forklift capable of all-terrain work. This pretty much rules out three-wheeled forklift variants, as they lack the necessary stability and traction.
Instead, you should look for a four-wheeled forklift with a relatively wide wheelbase, which will provide extra stability when navigating gradients and carrying particularly heavy loads. All-terrain tyres are also a must and will prevent your forklift getting bogged down in soft, damp earth. You should also opt for a forklift fitted with rollover protection (such as a rigid roof enclosure or roll cage) to protect your forklift operators if the worst should occur.
Commercial beekeeping operations are generally located in isolated areas (for obvious reasons) and lack the electrical infrastructure required to keep an electric forklift reliably charged. In any case, electric forklifts usually lack the power and torque necessary to navigate the rough ground between hives and builds. Petrol-driven forklifts are a better option, but diesel forklifts are generally considered the gold standard for apiary work.
Diesel engines are very reliable and provide forklifts with exceptional torque, a useful quality considering that your forklifts must deal with uneven ground and heavy loads simultaneously. They are also economical to run and consume less fuel than petrol-driven models, so you can dedicate less valuable storage space to forklift fuel supplies.
Telescoping lifting booms
Although the operator of your forklift will invariably be wearing suitable protective clothing to prevent stings, there is no such thing as too much distance between a forklift operator and a hive full of bees suddenly agitated by a hive relocation. Consequently, many apiaries choose forklifts with telescoping booms, which provide extra lifting height and added horizontal and vertical distance between operator and hive.