How to move a hive

You hear it all the time: you can’t move a hive a short distance because the field force will return to the original location of the hive and become lost. The usual advice is that you must move the hive at least two miles away, give the bees a few days to reorient themselves, and then move the hive back to where you want it.

However, it is much easier than that. You can move a hive anywhere—a few inches, a few feet, or many yards—by simply forcing the bees to reorient themselves.

Here are the steps:

  • In the evening or early morning when nearly all the bees are in the hive, block the entrance and move the hive to its new location. (How you actually move the hive is a separate subject, but I like to strap it all together and move it with a furniture dolly.)
  • Keep the bees sequestered the first 72 hours, if possible. Keeping bees locked up will cause some of them to reorient themselves the next time they go out.
  • In the meantime, place a leafy branch, a bead curtain, rags on a string, or something similar in front of the hive entrance. The object must be close enough to the hive entrance that the bees are forced to navigate around it as they leave the hive.
  • After three days, open the hive entrance. The bees will be confused by the object in front of their hive, pause for a moment, and exclaim, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more!” They will each take a short flight and reorient themselves to the new conditions and new area.
  • Leave the distraction in place for two days or so, and then remove it.
  • Your bees will have reoriented themselves to their new home.

This really does work. You can test it for yourself by placing distracting materials in front of any hive without moving it. Before the materials are in place the bees fly straight in and straight out. Within minutes after putting a distraction in place, you will see bees going through the process of reorienting themselves—circling around the entrance, hovering in front of the hive, and widening the exploratory area.

Be sure you don’t have a second entrance unless it also has distracting materials. I think it’s best to have just one entrance when doing this. Also, I like to have a distraction that is big enough and irritating enough that the bees really notice. In other words, don’t use a skinny twig. I like to use a big leafy branch with lots of leaves within an inch of the entrance.

I have had good results by leaving the hive closed for as little as 24 hours, but some people have had better luck by leaving them locked up for a full three days. If your bees have plenty of ventilation so they don’t get too hot, go for the three days. Also, see the YouTube video by LDSPrepper.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite.com

Reorienting the bees with a branch

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Comments

Phillip
Reply

Whatcho talkin bout, Rusty?

I knew about the re-orienting branch trick, but I didn’t know I could move the hive any distance. I asked local beekeepers and beekeepers on a few forums, and everyone told me a variation of the 3 feet or 3 mile rule, but nothing in between.

You mean I could have moved one of my hives this year in one go? Man!

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

I’ve moved them from about 5 feet to about 600 feet using this technique. I get a bit better result when I sequester them overnight than if I use the branch alone. Actually, if you sequester them about three days and three nights, you hardly need the branch at all.

Picasso said, “I am always doing things I can’t do, that’s how I get to do them.” Good advice. Whenever someone tells me something can’t be done, I start experimenting until I find a way to do it. Oftentimes the conventional wisdom turns out to be right, but sometimes not.

Phillip
Reply

I moved a hive last year following the traditional method. It was a pain in the neck and it severely disrupted the bees. Ain’t ever doing that again.

I’ll follow your method next time. An important note might be to make sure the hive has some kind of screened ventilation on top. My bees would cook if I locked them up for a day or two in the summer without any ventilation.

So much conventional beekeeping wisdom is, you know, bunk. How often in the middle of some beekeeping chore do you think, There has got to be a better way to do this? Thanks for debunking this one.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

Good point about top ventilation.

Jane Peters
Reply

I plan to move my hives early tomorrow into the apiary as bears are roaming around !!!!!. We overwintered them behind the barn which is approximately 300 meters from the apiary. Last year, I had to return and scoop them off the barn wall for about 3 days. Would you suggest I move them at night rather than early (5am) and keep them closed up for 2 to 3 days. We still have cooler days here in BC with nights at a low of minus 6C and days plus 10C. My other question is: I read that I have to rotate the supers (bottom on top) should I do this now or wait for our ‘real’ spring to arrive ???? many thanks Jane

Rusty
Reply

Jane,

Either morning or evening is fine, as long as all the bees are inside the hive. I’d leave them locked up for three days but make sure they have enough ventilation–like a screened bottom board and a screened top vent. The top one doesn’t have to be large, but on a warm day it’s really important.

You can reverse brood boxes if you want, but I don’t believe it’s necessary. Read this before you decide: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/reversing-brood-boxes-is-it-necessary/

Hello_Kitty_
Reply

Twelve days ago we caught a swarm in a trap sitting on our deck. Of course we couldn’t keep the bees on the deck, so very early the next morning before anyone was flying, we moved them across the yard. They’d only been in the box overnight, so I figured they hadn’t oriented to it and did nothing to re-orient them. Well, after we moved it, there were many confused bees. All day long there were bees trying to figure out where their box was. And I swear even yesterday, there was still a bee or two sniffing the spot where the box had been. Those scout bees must a) give really good directions and b) mark the spot with a powerful scent. Lesson learned. If I ever have to move a hive again, I will use this method for sure.

kimball
Reply

This technique did not work for me (100 metre move) and I frankly do not believe it works. You may have had a few young bees which stayed but the foragers left you. Lost a hive through sheer laziness and not moving it 4km and then back a couple days later. Stupid me.

Rusty
Reply

Kimball,

You say the technique did not work for you and then you say, “You may have had a few young bees which stayed but the foragers left you.” Please don’t tell me what my bees did. I use this technique frequently and it works. Just this year I moved a big boisterous hive about 90 meters with no problem. I even put a bait box where the hive used to be to catch any stragglers, but it didn’t pick up more than a dozen bees. If you haven’t already done so, go to this post and watch the video by LDSPrepper. I’m sorry you did not succeed with the technique but it is ridiculous for you say that I didn’t either.

kimball
Reply

Excuse my presumption, I commented in the heat of the moment. I didn’t of course lose the hive. The queen is still there with a few young bees but I won’t get much honey from this hive. But I did lose most of the foragers and despite the bait box they stubbornly returned. I followed the instructions to the letter. The bees left the hive after 30 hours of confinement, circled, oriented themselves as you say and promptly returned to the original location (100 meters). I trapped them and returned them the next morning to no avail.

Moving hives in late winter is no problem, or even 5 ft anytime (most of the bees will continue to circle up to 6 ft until they find the hive but there will be a few losses). The one metre/4km rule is best in my experience. Forgive my skepticism.

Just a few details in the name of empiricism. The hive was a swarm from my hives. They have this tendency. I have one or two mini hives which I put around the property to capture swarms and they overwinter in situ and I move them in late February/March. I live in Brittany on the west coast of France and the climate is very moderate. This swarm decided to install itself in front of my cabin where I had put out an old hive to be cleaned up and it had to be moved. I was pretty excited to happen on your site and your experience. I closed them up at night, moved them the next morning and opened the hive the next day decorated as you suggested with the result above. Originally they were oriented north and moved back facing south.

I do have considerable experience managing between 10 and 20 hives but learn new things regularly. Bees are still very mysterious for me and they don’t often read bee manuals. They surprise me regularly.

I will try this technique again because others say it works. I’ll be back.

Rusty
Reply

Kimball,

Since I originally wrote this post, I have actually increased the time I leave the bees locked up after the move. This last time I increased it to 72 hours on the advice of another beekeeper who had experimented with this technique quite a bit. His feeling was that 24 hours was minimum and the number of foragers that would reorient would increase every day for three days and then level off.

In light of his advice and your experience, I will amend the post and suggest a longer waiting time. As you say, the bees are mysterious and always full of surprises.

Thank you for your input.

Jane Peters
Reply

Would like to comment about moving hives. It is important to close them up the night before and leave them closed for at least 24 hrs afterwards… We have moved hives (just 200 metres) over the past few years successfully. Yes, a few bees do fly back where they overwintered, however, I brush them into a box and take them back to the summer pasture. Like Rusty, I also put a bait box out. Happy beekeeping everyone!!

Phillip
Reply

“How you actually move the hive is a separate subject, but I like to strap it all together and move it with a furniture dolly.”

Got any precise tips about that? I have to move four hives ASAP. I’ve got them strapped down and the bees sealed in with mesh (plenty of ventilation and I’ll give them water).

But how exactly does anyone who isn’t the Incredible Hulk lift a 3-deep hive onto a dolly without something disastrous happening?

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

You are so funny. At 52 kg (not exactly the Incredible Hulk) I can move a triple deep by myself. First I strap the hive together–top to bottom, all the way around–with a ratcheting tie-down so it is tight. Then I take the furniture dolly (aka hand-truck) and slide the flat metal part under the hive. Then I take a second ratcheting tie-down and tie the hive to the vertical part of the furniture dolly, tight. Then I lean the dolly back and the hive leans back with it, all connected. (If you put the dolly behind the hive–not on the left or right–the combs rock straight back and are not inclined to break.

Then you just roll the hives wherever you want them. I’ve rolled them along a path and I’ve rolled them up a ramp and into my pickup. Piece of cake.

Phillip
Reply

Okay, I see. My problem is sliding the dolly under the hive. Our hives are resting on makeshift double hive stands. If I put the dolly under the hive, it’s also under a piece of lumber that’s also supporting the hive right next to it.

It looks like I’ll have to find a way to lift the hives off the stand first. Oh, man.

Sarah
Reply

I’ve been wondering the same thing. Thanks.

Phillip
Reply

Stop the presses. I moved my four hives, but I didn’t touch my brand new heavy duty dolly once. A friend of mind came over and we simply picked up the strapped down hives. Him on the back, me on the front, all entrances duct taped shut with mesh.

That was too easy.

Anyway, just thought I’d throw that one out there for the record. Sometimes simplicity works best.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

People always ask why I’m so crazy about hive straps. Right there is one good reason.

Jeff
Reply

I also have to move my hives as my neighbour’s back patio is in line of sight that the bees are flying to towards the pollen/nectar/water sources. I plan to move my bees to a dairy farm where there is lots of space, unless you can can come up with advise on how to get the bees not to use that flight path. For the time being I plan to move the bees into the woods so they have to fly vertical 50′ then fly horizontal from there. I hope more of the bees will not be at ground level through their yard even though the colonies are 15′ above their yard.

Rusty
Reply

Jeff,

That is exactly the usual recommendation. If you can put a fence, hedge, building, or some other obstruction in their way, then they go up first and then over, which usually takes them away from people. I have a tall hedge between my bees and the neighbor’s horses and cows and it works well. It makes the bees go up first and then out where they are far above the animals.

Jeff
Reply

Currently my bees are on a hill but it is open in all directions. So there is the opportunity for the bees to fly down the valley intersecting the neighbour’s yard. My long-term goal is to be able to keep 3 – 4 colonies in my yard again without pissing anyone off. I am in talks with a dairy farmer now for placing my colonies there.

Any suggestions Rusty?

Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Jeff,

Short of a fence, I don’t have any good ideas. Have you already pissed someone off or are you just anticipating that you might? How close are you to your neighbor? Are you in an urban or suburban area? How big is your yard?

Phillip
Reply

Well, I moved four of my hives following this method, more or less. I’ll cut to the chase: The bees from two of the hives returned to the original location, hung around on the old hive stands and died. (It was a cold day.)

That seems odd, because the bees were locked in the hives for more than 24 hours and the obstacles in front of the hives should have caused them to orient immediately.

I’m not sure what’s happened. Both of those hives were in swarming mode. If the move knocks them back a bit, in my neighbourhood, that’s not a bad thing.

If I have to do it again, I’ll either lock them up for 3 full days, or provide more solid obstacles in front of the entrances.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

Although some people wrote to say they did fine at 24 hours, a majority did better by waiting the entire three days. When I moved a hive again last month, I too waited three days and got good results. I am going to change my recommendations in that post and say you should definitely wait three days.

Lyn
Reply

If I put a frame feeder with about 4 quarts of sugar water for my locked in bees after moving PLUS 3 full honey/pollen, and 3 to 4 brood/egg frames in my QUEENLESS box I’ve split will they be ok for the three days?

Rusty
Reply

Lyn,

They should be fine. Just make sure they have some ventilation so they don’t get too hot.

Mike
Reply

Rusty: How do you think this would work to change the entrance of a tree hive. The current entrance opens next to some steps. I would like their flight path changed to the other direction through a clear tube so they exit about 4 foot from the steps.

Rusty
Reply

Mike,

Bees in observation hives frequently use tubes for ingress and egress. Four feet sounds kind of long, but I don’t know what the realistic limit might be for a tube entrance. I would say just try it. You should get an idea fairly quickly as to whether they are comfortable with that. If not, you can change it again. It seems to me that a longer tube should have a wider diameter because with a long tube, more bees will be using it at any given moment. Since each bee has to be in the tube longer to get where she is going, it seems that a lot of bees will be passing each other in the tube. They will need enough space to do that easily.

Lizzy
Reply

I’m a new bee keeper and have had to move the hive from its original position (too close to house and neighbours). The technique makes sense to me and my intuition tells me it will work, so I am game to give this a go but, are the bees locked up without water for 3 days? If so are they ok? I think my bees have enough stores, I inherited the hive, it’s winter and have not opened it yet.

Rusty
Reply

Lizzy,

Bees stay in the hive all winter without any additional water, so they will be fine. There is water in the honey and there is condensation within the hive that they lap up. Having them locked up for three days, especially in winter, will not be a problem.

Tony
Reply

Hi, I split my bee hive a few days ago, left the old hive in its original spot and moved the new hive to my back yard. All the bees stay in their hives.

papajim
Reply

I split three hives and moved them with some scrub between them. I blocked the entrance to move them and opened entrance after move. They are doing great.

Jimmy
Reply

I have a hive that I just found in a pet carrier in a thick patch of brush behind my house. The house has been empty for about 1 1/2 years. I am renovating the house and have to move the hive. I don’t have a hive box, I want to leave the bees in the carrier till next spring. I am going to try to move the hive in the morning when the temp is around 40 degrees. I hope all the bees are in the hive.

I want to keep the hive and hope this works the move will be about 50-60 feet.

Rusty
Reply

Jimmy,

It will probably be fine. This time of year the bees stay close to home and most will not even leave the hive (pet carrier). In the spring they will reorient to their new location.

Craig
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I have a healthy developing nuc colony. I want to move the hive one foot vertically while keeping at the same location. Should I expect any problems and if so what might I do to overcome them.

thanks

Rusty
Reply

Craig,

It shouldn’t be a problem. They will act confused for a few moments, but the scent emerging from the hive will be close enough to call all the bees in.

abdul ghafoor chandio
Reply

I have moved the direction of my bee hive from north to east without any distance. Can it cause any damage to honey bees or honey bees will loose their direction by this way?

Rusty
Reply

Abdul,

Your bees will find their way back inside the hive. It may take them a few minutes, but they will eventually detect the scent of the hive coming from the hive entrance and learn the new way in.

abdul Ghafoor chandio
Reply

Sir, thanks. You have solved my problem.

Tim Leonard
Reply

Rusty, I think my question may have been answered by Abdul and Jimmy’s questions, but want to be clear on this. I want to move my hives 90 degrees from their present east, to south. Since it is winter and they stay inside, can I rotate the hives and when they start to fly in the spring will they have any problem getting back to the hive? For clairity, I am rotating to be able to add more hives. They are presently 12 feet apart with the front of one hive facing the back of the next. If I rotate them they will be side by side and allow me to add more hives.

Tim

Rusty
Reply

Tim,

You can do this easily, especially at this time of year. As they say, “just do it.”

Lindsey
Reply

I am in the process of moving my hive according to your instructions above. I am having a bit of a crisis due to the fact that my bees found a way to escape through a tiny crack between the hive body and the cover. They did not last even 12 hours. I taped all the cracks, but didn’t notice or think to cover this one. I noticed about 20 bees swarming around the original location this afternoon. There must be a whole lot more than that. I’m sure they will be heading for “home” soon. Is there anything I can do direct the lost bees to their new location at this point?

Rusty
Reply

Lindsey,

Usually the bees will settle on some nearby surface if they can’t find their hive. You can try to scoop this cluster up and return it to the hive. A butterfly net is handy, if you have one. Or you can put the hive back in its original location, wait until they settle in, then try again on another day. You won’t be able to redirect them. They have to reorient themselves to the new hive location and they won’t do that until they’ve been locked up for a few days.

Tim Leonard
Reply

Moved my three hives ninety degrees to the south last Wednesday. This weekend it got into the sixties and the bees were flying. Thought it was interesting that at first they would come back and land on the side of the hive where the opening used to be, but three hours later when I rechecked on them they had found the front and were going straight in.

Rusty
Reply

Excellent!

Lindsey
Reply

I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying this method, but I thought I might offer some suggestions based on my experience. I moved my hive a few weeks ago. I followed the instructions above, but I don’t think I put enough of an obstruction in front of the hive. From the bees perspective, it would take quite a bit to keep them from just zooming out the front door. On the second day I had a huge swarm of bees at the old location. Turns out I lost all of my field bees. Without food coming into the hive, they aborted all of the capped brood for fear of starvation. I am now in the process of nursing them with sugar water and hoping they will survive. Err on the side of caution and stack up a good amount of brush in front of their entrance. I think if I had done that on the first day, I would have saved most of my foragers.

Freddy
Reply

What is the best way to get stragglers into a hive that’s being moved? On warm nights there’s always at least a couple of dozen hanging around outside, should I block the entrance and then brush the rest into a box?
Thanks

Rusty
Reply

I sometimes do it at the coldest part of the night, around 4 in the morning. Any bees that are ever going to go back, do it by then. Set an alarm. Lock up the hive. Move it the next day.

Freddy
Reply

Thanks Rusty. I did what you suggested and blocked it off fairly early. Not early enough I think : about a dozen stragglers left behind:-(

Rusty
Reply

Freddy,

A dozen is not bad at all. On a normal summer day, you lose about 1000 bees per day just to foraging accidents and old age.

Susan
Reply

I had a swarm the other day and the cardboard box I put them in had a hole I didn’t know about, so while I was preparing a place to put them, they were orienting to their “new home”. Ha! I only left them there for a few hours, but by the time I put them into the hive, the ones who had been coming and going were still going back to the temporary location of the box. At that point, most of them were settled in to the new top-bar hive. I took one of the bars out (smelling like their queen) and placed it in the old location. All of the homeless bees just glommed onto the bar, which I then shuttled over to the new hive and bumped them off in front of the entrance, which they went right into. Did that about a dozen times, as the foragers/scout bees came back over the next hour. Got most of ‘em!

Susan

Richard Skinner
Reply

I just purchased a hive and have relocated it approximately 20 miles from original location. I intend to kept it closed for at least 24 hrs and use some obstruction in front of the hive when I open it. The temperature is about 40 degrees at night and 80 degrees during the day. What is the best time of day to open it? I intend to put a top feeder on it when opened. Should I keep it closed longer than 24 hours? Is there a problem with the hive getting too hot since it is located in a sunny location?

Rusty
Reply

Richard,

When you move a hive a long distance, let’s say more than two or three miles, you don’t have to worry about keeping them locked up or providing an obstruction. Bees don’t forage more than a few miles from home, so they are not going to see familiar objects that send them off in the wrong direction. They are absolutely forced to re-orient immediately because nothing in their environment looks familiar. Moving hives a short distance can be a problem; moving them long distances is not.

I would open them up right away. Add the feeder when the outside temperature is about 60°. They won’t have a problem.

Richard Skinner
Reply

Rusty
Thanks for the reply. As it turns out they had found a small opening and were already on their way out so I went ahead and opened them up and added the feeder. It seems the first thing they found was a water source (my pond) and they are really working that.

Rusty
Reply

Good! I’m glad it worked out.

nick
Reply

Good day, Rusty!

We have two new and first bee colonies. We just brought them from a beekeeper located at distance of more than 180km. This morning I opened the exit of one hive and I saw two guard bees coming out and fanning their wings at the gate and then after some time two or five worker bees also came out took a small flight and three returned to the hive, but four bees didn’t return so I blocked the exit and then read your post about keeping bees isolated for first three days..so now I’m waiting for those 72 hours and will check back again… :) thank you so much for this instruction….

Rusty
Reply

Nick,

That post is about moving hives a short distance, less than 2 miles or about 3 km. When you move a hive a long distance you don’t have to worry about keeping them locked up or providing an obstruction. Bees don’t forage more than a few miles from home, so they are not going to see familiar objects that send them off in the wrong direction. They are absolutely forced to re-orient immediately because nothing in their environment looks familiar. Moving hives a short distance can be a problem; moving them long distances is not.

If four bees flew out and only three returned, the fourth may have been ready to die, she may have been eaten, she may have been sleeping on a flower, or you may have missed her. Also, if bees are sick they sometimes fly away and don’t return to prevent spreading disease to hive mates. Don’t read anything into it. At the height of summer one thousand bees per day will not make it home.

mary
Reply

I am in Mexico. Some bees have decided to hang out on the upper eves near the roof tiles. I am concerned that they will try to make this home. There is no one here who is qualified or who would move or relocate them. Only the local bomberos, fire dept. will wash them out, so to speak. How can I move and or save these bees but not swarming around me here? Please assist me, here in Paradise.

Rusty
Reply

Mary,

I’ve answered via e-mail. I need a photo to see what they are.

Taylor
Reply

We just received our bees all within the hive; it was moved approximately 15 miles. We are in town so our hive is at the edge of our yard. We’ve only placed it approx. 3 feet from the grass edge. I’m wondering if that it too close to mow. Thank you

Rusty
Reply

Taylor,

Bees don’t like lawn mowers very much; the noise seems to upset them. So I guess it depends on how brave you are.

majid
Reply

I am in Iran. I have 10 hives. Hives are on the roof of my apartment in saveh city. How I remove the hives to garden?

susan
Reply

I love all this great information! I overfed my bees this spring and they swarmed (I learn something new every year). I was able to get the swarm in a brood box with a few frames of honey and took it about 3 miles away. It has been a week and I am thinking that I can now bring them back home. Has it been long enough? Is there any set length of time? Also, they will be placed about six feet away from the original hive which seems to be doing well. Will I have any problems with only a week of separation? Thanks for your help, Susan

Rusty
Reply

Susan,

You can bring them back now with no problem. Three miles is far enough that your foragers are unlikely to see familiar landscape and become confused. And if a few dozen bees went to the wrong hive? It happens all the time.

Rod
Reply

Hello,

Really appreciate the info on this site. We have a Warré hive in SW France, or should I say we now have two…We were taken by surprise a month ago and our bees swarmed, but we were able to get them quickly into a couple of hive boxes. 4 days in cool / dark room, then installed about 4 metres from their original hive using this ‘forced’ reorientation method, which was left in place for 3 days.

Margali
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Any recommendations on how to transport bees a long distance? I may have to relocate from Iowa to Texas. I’ve been googling but can’t find any advice on how to prep my hives for transport.

I would cargo strap everything tight together. I know to close exits with screen but unsure about the rest. I’m guessing screened bottom and top cover for ventilation? I’m contemplating getting a van length car dolly to put my car on and loading the bee hives behind the car. What else should I do?

Rusty
Reply

Margali,

You are on the right track. I would screen the entrance, use a screened bottom, and a screened inner cover with shims. You want plenty of air to get under there but you don’t want to blow them around. If you have a frame of empty comb, you can put some water in the cells and then put the frame in the hive. A feeder might spill but I think a partially filled comb would work. They need water for cooling and a trip from Iowa to Texas sounds hot. Also use a reflective outer cover of you have one, or at least a white cover to reflect as much heat as possible.

Margali
Reply

Would a quart baggie feeder of water with only one or two holes sitting on the screened bottom work? Or would I steam the bees?

Rusty
Reply

Margali,

I think that would work just fine.

Sandie
Reply

Great site / info … I read with interest. My query has arisen before but was answered direct via email to the originator so I’m not sure what the answer was. Basically, I have bees making themselves at home in the eaves + roof space of a ground floor extension to my house. I can see them from upstairs going in and out between the slates and I can hear them buzzing from below. I think they are bees (not wasps) because I took a dead one to a local garden centre and they said it was a bee. I haven’t seen the hive itself (can’t be reached easily / safely) and the hive entrances (roof slates) are also pretty inaccessible. The dead bee was on the ground having been blown by the wind from one of the entrances. So instead of moving a whole hive like most posters – I’m wondering if it’s possible / advisable to persuade the bees to move home ? … So far, these visitors have caused me no problem whatsoever and I don’t really mind them being in the roof UNLESS anyone knows of any risks. Shall I just leave them or might they cause damage to the house ?

Rusty
Reply

Sandie,

In order to give a good answer I would have to know what exactly they are. There are many species of bees and wasps and they are handled differently. I recommend trying to get a positive i.d., at least to the family it belongs to.

doug&sandra
Reply

We are waiting for a queen’s arrival and have two splits waiting. How long can we keep the hive safely closed up. They had quite a bit of stores.

Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Remember that bees are routinely closed up, put on trucks, and moved long distances over the course of many days. As long as they have food, water, and good ventilation they will be fine. I can’t put an exact number on it because there are too many variables, but I’m wondering why you have to keep the splits closed up? After a few days, nearly everyone will stay put–with a queen or without. And if a few foragers go back home, it doesn’t make much difference.

Scott
Reply

My problem is that the bees I want to move are located behind a chimney as they enter in a crack between the wall and chimney. I can’t possibly move the chimney as it is 30 feet tall. Any suggestions how to move them, we do not want to harm them but want to move them.???? Please Help

Rusty
Reply

Scott,

Probably the best you could do would be a trap-out, but it is far from ideal: What is a trap-out?

adam
Reply

Rusty,

I appreciate the insight. I am a rookie and have a few rookie questions. I need to move my bees in the next few days, and obviously with it being the end of August, it is hot. How do I ensure they have sufficient ventilation when they are locked in there for 3 days? Would mesh duck taped around the opening work? So you know, I just put another deep hive body on as they were getting cramped.

Also, I have noticed bees coming out of the top, although theoretically it is completely closed in. Is that normal, and if so how do I prevent them from doing that over the 3 days, i.e. what do I close them in with while keeping it ventilated and what not.

Rusty
Reply

Adam,

I would close up the entrance with or without a screen. Instead I would use a screened bottom board and a screened inner cover. There are directions for making an inner cover here. That gives them plenty of airflow—in through the bottom, out through the top. I don’t know how far you are moving your hives, but if it is close by, you need to find out where the bees are getting out and seal it up, otherwise those bees will go back to the original location.

Chris
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Not sure if this is affected by the bee breed. Mine is a hive of Melifera melifera that I rescued from a nest in my eaves. They were tricky to move in the first place; I had three attempts at shifting them. It only succeeded when they swarmed and I was able to capture the queen and put her on top of an excluder for a day or two.

Anyway, followed the instructions to the letter but the little bug***s came out and went straight back to the scaffolding I put up to capture them in the first place. So I hauled the hive back up and waited until nightfall. They are now at a friend’s paddock 2 miles from me for a nice 3 week holiday…

Wendy
Reply

I am a fairly new distraught beekeeper. I had to move my beehive (about 3 meters) due to work being done in the garden and thought it would be OK to move it at night when all the bees were inside and before I’d found your posts about moving bees.

Now I have lots of bees flying in the garden not being able to find their way back and I’m worried that the colony will be wrecked, especially as more will fly as the day warms up. I plan to wait till dark and close the hive off and keep it closed for a couple of days until the work in the garden has finished. Am I too late to save my colony?

Rusty
Reply

Wendy,

Three meters is a little far for them to find it easily, but some will. You may find a cluster of bees landing near where the hive was, and you can pick these up and move them back to the hive before you close it up. You won’t wreck your colony, but if you lose a lot of foragers, you will certainly weaken it. At this point, it is probably best to just collect those you can and hope for the best. Don’t be distraught; bees are very resourceful.

Hala Gherianu
Reply

Hello Rusty,

As you may recall, we just recently (June 16) got our first honey bees and things seemed to be fine.

The other day, we found a swarm of honey bees clustered around the main trunk of a young tree. Not sure where they came from but we suspect that they split from our original hive 50 feet away.

We scrambled to get help and advice to moved the swarm into a new box that was hastily bought and haphazardly placed by where they had collected. My husband was going to move the box to its chosen location almost immediately, however, our bee expert suggested we feed the bees some sugar water and move them in a few days. It’s been two nights.

By now you probably guessed my question: do we move the box in the evening to their new location and let them deal with it as our seasoned bee expert is suggesting, or do we do as you have posted in the above message considering it is a new hive?

I am inclined to use your method to be sure, however, these honeybees are new, they have no stored food or water source and it is August in southwest Missouri.

While anxiously waiting on your response, I will keep busy building a screened cover.

Thanks,
Hala

Rusty
Reply

Hala,

Although it is too late now, I would have moved the hive to its final location immediately and not waited a few nights. When the bees are caught and first put in their new home, they have not yet done orientation flights or learned where home is. By waiting to move them, they had a chance to do orientation flights, and so now they know where home should be.

So whereas earlier you could have moved them easily, now you have to go through the entire moving and re-orientation process, assuming they will be moved more than a few feet away.

Bob
Reply

I need to run an underground waterline very near our hive. I could probably move the hive 2-3 feet and be able to get the trencher through…My concern is that the work will certainly be disruptive for the hive and I’d prefer to not have the workers stung doing their job.

Would it be better just to relocate the hive? We have 175 acres with many vehicle accessible areas in full sun.

If we move the hive a couple feet during dusk/early evening, should we cover the opening or just pick it up and set it on the nearby bricks. We do not have suits etc.

Thanks.

Bob

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

If it were me, I would close up the hive during the night before the trencher arrived, and keep them locked up until the work was done–assuming it wouldn’t take more than a few days.

That way you can just move the hive a few feet, get the trencher through, and no one gets stung.

If you decide to move it, you can close them up the night before. If you decide to move it only a few feet, and not lock them up, it will take a few hours for them to reorient, but they will. But don’t let them re-orient while the workers are there; it will be scary for them (the workers, not the bees.)

Bob
Reply

We need to move our hive a few feet (2-3) to allow for a trencher to lay a water line. Should we move it further to make it safer for the workers trenching the line? We have plenty acres on our farm.

If leaving it within 2-3 feet of the place it sets now, should we mesh over the opening the evening before work is to commence to keep the bees in the hive?

In moving the hive 2-3 feet….should sequester them for three days to ensure they stay with the hive?

Rusty
Reply

You don’t need to sequester the hive if it is moved only 2-3 feet. It will look like all hell broke loose for a few hours, but they will relocate.

Lucy
Reply

I have blocked off the entrance to the hive just for the move and opened it straight after the move which was about 40 feet.

Today, which is the following day bees fly around old spot, there is much confusion, obviously I have done the move before viewing your posting.

Is it worth to sequester the hive now (24 hours after move) for at least 24h and try to force them to reorientate?

Rusty
Reply

Lucy,

You could sequester them if you could figure out a way to get them back in the hive. How will you do that?

Lucy
Reply

Good point, Rusty, however, because I am in Australia and at that point of time where we are, in Adelaide, weather is cold and windy. So true, there is confusion, but I guess very limited activity not like one can expect in sunny and warm weather, guess I will lose some bees but save others?!?

Does that sound logical?!?

Rusty
Reply

Lucy,

Yes, it does. With fewer out and flying because of the cold, there will be fewer losses.

Bob
Reply

Rusty,

Stumbled upon your website this morning and I’m going to try your method starting today. I’ve been pulling what’s left of my hair out fighting yellowjackets that are attacking my weak hive. I’ve tried all of the methods, trapping, reduced entrance etc. (can’t find the yellowjacket home base) and am hoping a move will help. I’ll let you know if it helps. Thanks for sharing your method.

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

You must be in the south somewhere. Our yellowjackets up here and dead and gone. I just love a good freeze.

Bob
Reply

Hey Rusty,

I’m in the northern San Francisco Bay area. The weather has been in the low to mid 20’s the last few mornings, hopefully the yellowjacket queen will get the message and stop laying. In the meantime her daughters walk right through the narrowed entrance after the sugar feeder. I keep putting fewer and smaller holes (5 in mason jar) but it keeps leaking. I’m afraid once I get it to stop they’ll go after the girls for a snack instead. Any ideas?

Rusty
Reply

Bob,

Yellowjackets should not be going in and out of your hive. Have you looked inside? Are there any bees left? Maybe your hive is the yj home base. But if the temperature is that low, you should not see a single yellowjacket anywhere.

Rachel
Reply

Can you move bees many miles using this technique?

Rusty
Reply

Rachel,

You can but moving hives many miles is much easier. You just lock up the bees the night before, move the hives, and then open them up . . . no waiting, no branches, no keeping them locked up. Since honey bees only forage a few miles at most, they won’t go back to their old place. They will immediately re-orient and they won’t “accidentally” return to the original spot because it isn’t within their foraging range.

Kevin
Reply

I have bees in the walls of a old abandoned building that is falling down and I want to move them. I have a box to put them in for a hive. I plan to put most of the honey comb in the hive for them to eat. I plan on moving them appox. 15 miles to a new home. Is there any problem during this during winter?

Rusty
Reply

Kevin,

I don’t know how cold it is where you are. The main problem is that while you are cutting out the combs and putting them in the hive, bees will be flying everywhere. Depending on how cold it is, some won’t make it back. Also, the brood will get chilled because the workers that were keeping it warm will fly off.

So, if you have no choice, you can try it and see what happens. You may be successful. However, if you have a choice, I would wait until you have at day over 60F. Cutting bees out of buildings can be tough and you will probably lose a considerable number of bees even with ideal conditions. Think through your process carefully before you start, have all the tools you will need, and then work as quickly as possible.

Cherie
Reply

I placed a nuc at the edge of a wooded area last fall, not noticing that it had a lot of large, dead branches. It has been a brutally cold winter, and last week, with an ice storm expected, I felt it was dangerous to leave the hive near that big oak. I sealed it up and moved it about 100′ from its previous location. It was only after that that I read the bit about not moving hives short distances (big duh on my part). The bees have only been out of the hive a handful of times all winter, and since last Sunday (four days ago) when I moved the hive, they have not been out at all. I saw a few bees during the day today, but not very many. I have put some pine branches in front of the hive, but hoping it isn’t too little too late. Is it possible, that given that they’ve not been outside in such a long time, that there is hope that this hive will not lose too many foragers once they get moving again?

Rusty
Reply

Hi Cherie,

Yes, they will be fine. Because they are not out flying around, winter is an excellent time to move a hive. The foragers will re-orient before they go far. All the admonitions about locking them down and providing diversions to force re-orientation is necessary during periods of active foraging when they are coming and going many times a day. During cold winters there is little problem with them flying to the old location.

Cherie
Reply

Thank you!! I can breathe a sigh of relief. I actually saw one returning yesterday as I was affixing pine branches to the hive!! I suppose I can ditch the snazzy hive decor. Now to just hope and pray they make it through the rest of this brutal winter.

Mohamed
Reply

Important note: keeping bees locked up for a half a day or more will result in killing bees.
Even with two slots for ventilation and considerably small colony (five out of the ten frames are new) and temperature was 25C; the bees died from suffocation. apparently bees crowded on the vents trying to get out cutting air and increasing heat inside the hive resulting sadly in the loss of the colony.
I believe the best way is to relocate few kilometres for few days, then back to new location.
thank you

Rusty
Reply

Mohamed,

Bees are routinely locked up and shipped for days on end, even in summer. The important thing is to give them adequate ventilation. What is adequate will depend on your situation. I wouldn’t put them in bright sun, I would make sure they had plenty of water, and I would give them screened bottoms and a screened inner cover. Such steps have saved the lives of many colonies, especially those locked down during pesticide applications.

I don’t think two slots sounds adequate and you don’t say anything about water supply or placement of the hive. Take reasonable precautions and your bees will be fine. I believe all that relocation business is even harder on them.

Sue Pacey
Reply

I find your advice on moving bees and using distractions fascinating and will certainly try it. Here in England most keepers recommend the conventional move-and-stop-over-for-a-holiday method, before moving to a new site

Rusty
Reply

Sue,

Most beekeepers do it that way here as well. You lose some bees either way, but I find moving hives into and out of vehicles to be hard on bees, especially if you don’t have fork lifts, etc.

Lisa
Reply

Just found your site today; happy accident for me. I purchased a house in February and found honey bees going in and out of the eaves during a warm snap in late March. Well today they are swarming everywhere. I need them moved but would like to start my hive with them if that is possible. I don’t want the honey and/or combs left in the eaves. I have a log house and have seen very few bees in the house. So I think they are all in the eaves. Is it possible to move them and start a hive?

Rusty
Reply

Lisa,

It totally depends on whether you can get to them. Once you have your hive set up, you can cut the combs out of the eave and, one-by-one, tie them into the frames with string. Once in the hive, the bees will attach the combs to the frames and will eat away the string. Everything hinges on whether you can get to the combs.

Linda
Reply

I have a small group of mason bees in my dog kennel we haven’t used for about 2 years. I left a box with a bunch of beds out there on a ledge and covered it with two sleeping bags, storing them out there.

I was going to pressure wash the runs and noticed a darling black and gold bee crawling in the box. Not wanting to encourage more, we thought to move it. That is when some came out and were flying around, not aggressive at all, most stayed in the box because we could see in it.

We moved the box to clear out the sleeping bags and then moved the box, covered, back to the spot and more were crawling where the box had been, so I have to relocate them because I need to put animals in there for boarding.

The box is not a hive but a cardboard box. We can put them about 30 feet away near our neighbors’ huge garden I am sure they know all about.

So the easiest way is to keep them in this box for overnight, then let them out, keep the box there. Can’t I put a proper house for them next to it? Would that work out?

Thanks for any help

linda

Rusty
Reply

Hi Linda,

Moving a small group of native bees isn’t like moving a hive of social insects like honey bees. I would just move the box to wherever you want it. As for providing a proper house, I don’t know what a proper house would be without a better i.d. on the bees. I can’t tell what they are from your description. If you can put the cardboard box in a somewhat protected location for a few days, maybe you could research their identification and then make something. You say mason bees. If you are sure they are masons, then go ahead and put up a structure for masons. I’m not familiar with gold-colored mason bees, but perhaps you are writing from elsewhere (like UK?) where I know there a lots of gold-colored masons.

linda
Reply

Bee problem solved. They are Mason Bees and belong to the neighbor who has a 1.5 acre garden..he sells at Farmers Markets..
The Bees came over to my property and found a place they liked but are back home now..darn..

Rusty
Reply

So Linda, out of curiosity, where do you live? I’m curious about the type of mason bee.

linda

S. E. Portland, Oregon…..I couldn’t get a picture of them but seeing bees, I ran. I am highly allergic to bee stings and couldn’t take a chance. We worked in the building a day after, and they were gone.

Back to the neighbors…

Rusty

Thanks, Linda. I just learned something.

Helene Farve
Reply

I moved two hives 3 nights ago, confined for 24 hours (it’s hot here), piled lots of obstruction materials and had quite a number of bees return the next day I caught as many as I could in a nuc and brought to the new location. Again piled materials and very few came back a second time. Today I have as many as I did the first time. The nuc was empty and I brought back with a frame of stores. They are going in but I’m not sure what to do next. Try again? It’s pouring rain now for the day.

Rusty
Reply

Helene,

In the post I suggest 72 hours of confinement (three days) and I think that is necessary with this system. One night just won’t do it. When it’s really hot, it is best to give them both a screened bottom and a screened inner cover and some shade, if possible.

Helene
Reply

I’ve got almost all of them in the nuc again. It’s a cardboard one. I can move to a shady location or keep them where they are. It’s cooler there. Will I be able to move them the third night and release w obstruction and will they still remember their real hive if I set the nuc next to it? Thanks for the input.

Rusty
Reply

Helene,

If you set the nuc next to the hive, after three days I think they will return to the nuc.

Jana
Reply

Is there a particular time of year that is best to move hives?

Rusty
Reply

Jana,

If they are not out flying, it sure is a lot easier to move them short distances. On the other hand, you don’t want them to get chilled. I favor early winter for short distances, any season for long moves.

Clifford
Reply

I will start by telling this group that I am a first year bee keeper. I have probably done it wrong so many times you can’t count them but the “girls” have stayed with me so far. I ordered 2 – 3LB packages and got them on April 28. I put them in a deep brood box that evening and began feeding the 1:1 sugar water. They have done great. I had signed up to catch swarms so I got a call on April 27. I was totally unprepared for this but I had signed up to catch them. I put them in a nuc and placed them about 30 feet from their present location. 2 days later I put them into a deep brood box with frames and foundation and moved them to the present location. I did nothing to help them like grass etc in the entrance. I didn’t close them in over night. NOTHING. They did fine. There were a few that went back to the old location but the hive survived me. In the middle of June I got a call to take an established hive out of the wall of an old chicken house/storage building. I was better prepared now and took 3 hive boxes with me. I used 2 of them and split the bees. Not a natural split. I just did it. I moved them about 10 miles. I did put a 2×2 block of wood across their entrance for the trip. I untapped it and slid it out about an inch after we got them set in place. 2 days later I moved the wood. Now I read there was no need for the wood. I re-queened both hives since I never found the queen from the original hive. So now I have 5 hives. They are doing well. One of those hive has been weak so I have tried to help them by moving a frame of brood from one of the package hives since they are going like gang busters. I kept feeding. about 2 weeks later I robbed another frame from the package hive. I now have 2 med. supers on the package hive. I think they will make the winter now. The kill here last winter was terrible. The president of our local beekeeper chapter lost 5 out of 13 hives. About the first of august I was asked to take a large bird house that had a colony in it. The man told me they had moved in then later told me they had been there 4 years but they didn’t have much comb. I took the entire birdhouse and moved it to the bee yard. We put it back in a tree like before and left it a week until we could move them. We put them in a deep brood box with all their comb. We started feed them. We didn’t lock them in. We left the birdhouse beside their hive box for a few days. Some of the bees would go back there. They finally made the move or died. We are feeding them and they are working. I saw eggs and capped brood just a couple of weeks ago. I did use the tree leaf trick on their move. With all this I now have 5 colonies of bees. I did re-queen the swarm I caught earlier. After about a month they got very defensive of their space. I got stung about 30 feet out in front of their hive box. I had the queen on order already. I got her in a couple of days. I removed the old queen and left them for 24 hours. I went back and installed the new queen in her cage. She was out and active in about 6 days. I used some cinnamon sugar water in that hive box. I read that somewhere. Masks the pheromone I think they said. I now have yellow bees instead of black bees in that colony. They are more gentle. They have filled their deep brood box but have refused to go into the super!! that is frustrating. Maybe timing and pollen flow. I have written my history to tell you I had a good move by using oak tree leaves. The move was 6 feet. All went well and they stayed home. BTW, we do have African bees in my area and I like dealing with a known product so I will continue to buy new queens. My brother-in-law has gone through a succession of bees. He has had 2 colonies stay with him long term. He has made splits and bought more bees etc but just hasn’t been successful. I helped my nephew catch 2 colonies. They either died or left home.

Janey
Reply

Thank you Rusty for the information on moving a hive a short distance!

We just successfully moved our hive 150 feet. Kept the bees enclosed for 72 hours with candy cakes. Fortunately the days are cool now so it made it easy. Would never have attempted this in the summer.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

P.S. Using the paper plates for making hard candy is brilliant!

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Janey. I’m glad it worked out for you.

Rich
Reply

I need to move three hives about 5 miles due to my mentor passing away this fall. I am in NJ so based on what I have seen, late winter early spring is the correct time to make the move when the temps are over 50 degrees? Also due to merging 2 hives, I have a hive that is stacked four deeps high. Is this OK to leave through the winter? It now seems to be very healthy. Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Rich,

If you don’t have to open the hives to move them, you can do it any time. I’ve moved them in the dead of winter by just sealing the entrances and loading them all of a piece into the pickup with a furniture dolly.

As for four deeps, it is better to leave them in place than chill the bees. If you get a warm day, you can take off the empties, but it’s more important not to chill the bees.

Pamela
Reply

I am thinking about getting bees. A friend of mine has several hives and is willing to give me one. My property is 50 miles away from theirs. They say I can use your technique and move the whole hive in winter to its new location and the bees will be fine, come out in full force in spring and reorient themselves. Will this work? Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Pamela,

You can relocate the hive in winter as long as you move it all in one piece so you don’t chill the bees. Put in the bottom drawer, if you have one, and seal all entrances so there is no cold draft blowing through the hive while the bees are in the truck. Otherwise, the move should be easy.

Karen
Reply

I am so thankful that you have explained moving a hive in winter and your post referencing that honey bees don’t like lawn mowers. I am feeling desperate on this February morning with 2 feet of snow cover here in NH. Is it the noise or the vibration that disturbs the bees? My dilemma is my 4 hives are (double deeps and medium honey super, wrapped) are 300 ft away from a path that enters a woods that is going to be thinned out or lumbered. The path will now be a freaking roadway, the only enter and exit and loading area for the log trucks and equipment. This will take 3 months (through April) my most fragile month!

Do you think I have to move the hives do to the noise and ground vibration? If so, how far away from the vibration?

Rusty
Reply

Karen,

Sound is just vibration we can hear, so noise and vibration are the same thing sensed differently. But in any case, my bees have been adjacent to logging (what you Northeasters call lumbering) several times, once for the whole summer, and they did fine. Like other disturbances, they get used to it. My biggest worry was that a tree would land on them, but none did, and it all turned out fine. I think you shouldn’t be concerned.

chris
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I just brought a complete hive last night that came in 2 nuc boxes, sealed off. This a.m. I removed the screen that was on the top. The bees seem pretty upset. They are buzzing around the hive, drinking the 1:1 sugar water. But now when I even go near the hive they appear to come after me. Why? will they calm down? And how long should I wait before transferring the frame to the deep hives? Thanks,

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

If someone put you and your family in a box and moved you who-knows-where, wouldn’t you be upset? The territory they called home is gone and their surroundings are unfamiliar, so naturally they are upset. A lot of the flying around is due to orientation flights—they are trying to get a fix on where their new home is so they can find it again after foraging.

I would put them in the new hive in their final location as soon as possible. They will have to go through the whole orientation process again when you move them again.

They will calm down in two or three days. Just get them in the new hive and then leave them alone for a few days. Too much beekeeper interference as they are learning their new home is unsettling to them.

Let me know how it works out.

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