[...] if we move a hive a longer distance, all we know is that no bees end up at the old location. We really don't know that the same number of bees will fail to re-orient and will still be lost. I've not seen any studies where all the bees in a hive are counted before and after a long-distance move.
Just some things I was pondering.
I love it when people 'ponder' ...
There's a rough and ready observation you can make which might go some way to confirm (or not) what you are suggesting ... If you observe foragers leaving a newly moved hive (a 'long distance' one) - then if those foragers immediately stop in their tracks and start playing in front of the entrance, this would confirm that they have spotted the change in position and are re-adjusting their 'homing mechanism' - whatever that might consist of. BUT - if they just come barreling out of the hive and take off towards what they assume is the same target location as yesterday ... then the chances are very high indeed that they will become disoriented and won't find their way back.
I think you may be right - that because people have not observed bees circling around the old location when moving hives long distances, they have simply assumed that the bees have re-adjusted to their new location. And as we are beginning to realise, once an idea has been proposed, it doesn't take much for a suggestion to become cemented into 'fact' (so-called received wisdom).