honey bee management how to

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, and make sure they have good ventilation. 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.

Test your distraction

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, go for the three days. But remember, if the bees can’t cool the hive, they will cook. I think it’s best to have a screened bottom board with no tray and a screened inner cover. You can also screen the main opening instead of using a reducer. It is important to pay attention!

For more information, see the YouTube video by LDSPrepper.

Update 04/29/18: Before you try moving your hive, read this post.


Reorienting the bees with a branch



  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • I know this is a 5 year old comment but this article is still in the top 4 results on google for “how to move a hive”.

      When you block the entrance, use 1/8th inch hardware cloth so the bees have almost unobstructed ventilation as normal but they cannot leave the hive.

  • 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

    • 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: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/reversing-brood-boxes-is-it-necessary/

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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!!

  • “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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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?


    • 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?

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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: 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.


      • 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.

      • We have a hive that we will have to lower. It is currently about 3 ft off the ground and with the 3 boxes on top, it almost impossible for me and my husband to open the boxes and check the frames. I would like to drop the boxes down at least 12 inches, but we are concerned that the ‘girls’ will get disoriented and not return to the hive. How did this work for you Craig?

        We originally put them up a little higher because we though they may get snowed in during the winter. Not sure what to do about that or if it is even an issue. Any thoughts or experiences with that?

        • Robyn,

          Just my two cents, but I think this is a non-issue. The coordinates of the hive are the same. They will quickly find the entrance and you will see them fanning to direct each other in.

  • 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?

    • 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.

        • Hi Rusty,

          I installed my bees one week ago, have been feeding them, had issues with ants, and had to move them about 6 feet over to a new stand. I have closed off the entrances with mesh and moved them at night. It is spring in Oregon, so it is about 55-60 degrees with rain showers. Because the hive is so new, will they be okay without their sugar water for 3 days until reorientation? Sorry if you’ve already answered this question.


  • 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.


  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

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

        • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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….

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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 ?

    • 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.

  • 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.


    • 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.

  • 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,

    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.

    • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.


    • 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.

  • 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.



    • 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.)

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • I am making a “bee yard” and moving my hives approx one foot, so I plan to seal up openings and let them sit and move the next day. My problem is that I am not sure how I will lift the hive off of the stand I made of pipe because they have sealed it down. Do you have any kind of recommendation for getting that apart other than just a good heave-ho?

        • Marina,

          I don’t know of any method except prying them loose. I keep an assortment of pry bars close at hand.

          If you are only moving the hives a foot or so, you don’t need to do anything special. They will find the new position very quickly.

  • 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?

      • 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,

    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.

      • 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?

        • 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,

      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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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


    • 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.

      • 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..

          • 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…

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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.

  • 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,

    • 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.

    • Mahmoud,

      Yes. You can use a screened bottom board, a screened inner cover, or a moving screen that goes over the entrance.

  • Rusty, I caught my first swarm in a trap that I made overwinter from some plans online. The bees are carrying pollen in. I now want to move them to their permanent location and new hive home a few hundred feet from the tree that I caught them in. I’m afraid they probably don’t have enough stores to close them up for 72 hours. I have a friend that lives 2.6 miles from me if I need to move them. How do suggest I proceed?

  • My daughter just put a beehive in a yard with permission from the owner then discovered a guy that rents an apartment there is deathly allergic to bee stings. This occurred this morning. Can she move the hive without doing anything special since this just occurred a few hours ago? Any advice is appreciated.

  • Hello Beekeepers,

    I have recently inherited two honey bee colonies. We relocated them from their original location about 4 miles from our house. The previous owners had a hard time capping the bottom so he had to use a mesh to close the entrance. We kept the hives closed for two nights and we were going to go for the third night given the distance, but I noticed on night two that one of the hive entrances was being blocked by a lot of dead bees. The sight of dead bees made me sad and sick to my stomach. So I made the decision to remove the mesh to open the hives. I used the branch technique I had read and seen on YouTube. When I went out this morning on day three I found dead bees in both hives. Hive one had a few dead bees, but the colony looks relatively healthy. The second colony did not look as good. There were many more dead bees in this one. The dead bees were blocking the gaps of each frame. Unfortunately I lost most of the bees in this colony. I have gone in and cleaned out the dead bees as best I could and tried to find the queen, but it was really hard to find it among all the dead bees. I did see one or two that looked like the queen and I had a few and one really large queen cluster in the hive. I’m looking for recommendations on what I should be doing next to make sure each colony makes it, but most especially what can I do to assist in making the one colony that lost a lot of bees recover from the stress and loss. Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Izzy,

      First thing is for future reference. Four miles is enough distance that you don’t need to lock them up at all. They will reorient at that distance with little or no problem.

      This is what I would do, and maybe someone else will chime in. If the small hive seems healthy otherwise, try again to find the queen. If you have a queen, equalize the colonies by transferring some frames of bees, both brood and nurses, to the new hive. Be sure to leave the old queen in her home. The small colony will recover in no time.

      If you are sure you are without a queen, again transfer some frames of brood and nurses, but make sure to include at least one frame that has eggs and very young larvae. Keep an eye on the hive. The bees should try to raise a queen shortly, and you should begin seeing emergency cells very soon. It will take a while to raise a queen and get her mated, so you may end up adding another frame of brood later on.

      Or, for quicker results, buy a mated queen from someone and introduce her to the small colony.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have been reading your posts about moving hives with a lot of interest. I have been receiving complaints from a neighbour that my bees have been attacking/stinging him. Unfortunately, I think it is true: they have been testy lately, perhaps because one hive is in the process of requeening itself and the weather has been fairly stormy. He also likes to sunbathe in a spot that is right behind the place where the hives are located. Anyway, I have decided to move the two hives roughly 6 feet along to the other side of my garden using your technique and build a 7 ft screen around them to encourage them to fly upwards. My question is: my busier queen-right hive has a north facing opening and his garden is to the north of mine. Should I change the orientation of the opening? Any other suggestions? Any advice would be gratefully received! Margaret

    • Margaret,

      I would change it only because bees prefer an opening that faces south or southeast, I don’t think it will affect the neighbor that much one way or the other.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I will want to put the swarm bees in a cool, dark room. The best temperature for placing bees in a dark room, what is?

    • What are you trying to do and why? I can’t answer unless I know your purpose. Also, where are you writing from?

  • Love your website. Only one hour and already learned a lot! For those (especially in the South) who are contending with yellowjackets I have discovered (by accident) how to lure yellowjackets away from your hives and kill them without harming your bees. Take a large container (I was using a two gallon pitcher with a top) and fill it half full with sugar water. With the top on and only the hole where you pour left open the yellowjackets are drawn like a magnet to the sugar water-filled jug/pitcher. They crawl in through the hole and as they swarm over the sugar water they drown. I’ve killed hundreds literally in just a few hours. Bees don’t go near it probably because of the yellowjackets! The pitcher was about 12 feet from the hives.

    • Daniel,

      I have seen people use this method to kill their neighbors’ honey bees and works quite well. Just because you were lucky enough to capture yellowjackets and not honey bees doesn’t mean it will always work. Far better to bait with meat (which wasps love and bees don’t) than to risk killing your honey bees.

      • It wasn’t luck that it worked!! I stood and watched while it worked!!! It saved my hives!!! As I stated my bees wouldn’t go near it because of the number of yellow jackets!!! And, it works very quickly, thank you!!!

  • I’ve read somewhere a process to move a hive a few yards or any distance without losing bees, by transporting the locked hive up and down several times on a chariot with square, or somewhat square, not round wheels. This rough method of shaking and trembling so much the bees would disorientate them.

    Once I tried to do so but there were some cracks on the hive walls and I got so many stings from my Africanized bees that I gave up, and let the cart on the spot. Surprise few days later I found that hive working hard.

    • Only if they need feed. If they have plenty of honey, they don’t need anything else. But if it is really hot, they probably need extra water for cooling the hive.

  • Hi, I am a backyard beekeeper in Kentucky with one top bar hive. I’m in my second season. I am selling my house and moving less than 2 miles away. I would like to try this method, but I’m not sure how to ventilate the hive. I do not have a screened bottom. Also, if I put a nuc at the old house, should I just go gather the stray bees every day and bring them back to the new location? Hopefully it will be cooler by the time the move occurs.

    • Maria,

      Buy a roll of window screening and staple a piece over the top of the hive in place of the cover and staple another piece over the entrance. Leave it on for a couple day after the move, and you should have few bees that go back “home.” If the hive will be in the bright sun, shade the top while the cover is off, but don’t block the ventilation.

      • Thanks for your reply. However, with a top bar hive, I can’t replace the cover with screen (the bars themselves are the cover). See my dilemma?

        • Maria,

          Take out two bars that don’t contain brood, one on each end or two on one end, and then staple the screen on top of the hive. This will give them the ventilation they need. After you remove the screen, you can return the two bars. I have a top-bar hive, and this is how I handle it. I know all are slightly different, but you can figure out a way to do this.

          I am surprised though, that you don’t have a cover over your top bars. How do you keep out the rain?

          • Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks! I do have a sheet metal cover that I tie over the top. I’ll keep that on when I replace the bars with screen for those few days.

  • Howdy,

    Your site and comments are extremely helpful. I have had a hive in North Texas for several years, but without much maintenance. It is now in need of significant maintenance. I have it next to house, outside a window, surrounded by bushes. I have to move it for our house to be painted. Your site help get me up to speed. The hive was in need of repair to the degree that I had to wrap the 5 box stack in screen because of all the gaps. I have it moved, but have several questions:
    1. What is the max time I can leave the hive closed up?
    2. How is the best way to get water to them in a closed up hive?

    Sincerely Appreciating all your Expertise!

    • Poiema,

      Migratory beekeepers put their hives on flatbed trucks for days at a time. So I think the most important issue is the heat. I don’t know how warm North Texas is this time of year, but if the hive is not in the shade they should at least have a screened bottom and a screened top so air can move easily through the hive. It sounds like yours might already have lots of ventilation, but be on the safe side.

      If you have a boardman feeder or some other kind of jar feeder, you can fill that with water for them. Or, if you have a screened top, you can lay a wet towel on part of the screen for them to lick up the water, just make sure to soak it now and then and don’t let the towel completely block the ventilation. Make sure the bees can reach it.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am asking this question for a friend. They live in the northwest of Queensland Australia. Currently we are in Autumn and they have some native bees who have been resident in their telecom connection box since they brought the place about 6 months ago. So it goes to reason they cannot move their home as its concreted into the ground. Telstra will not connect any services until the bees have been moved. They do not wish to harm the bees to do so.

    I don’t have the time to read through all the comments on this blog to find out if you have already answered a question like this so I do apologise for wasting you time if you already have done so.

    They have made a small bee hive box and placed it next to the small hole but it’s not working. None of us have any experience in bees at all and the local bee man wants a fortune to come and relocate them; and wants to take them to his place which is also not what they want to do. They would like to keep the bees around the property just not in the telco box. If you wouldn’t mind any suggestions and help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Tammy,

      Your question is so interesting and I would love to help, but I don’t know much about Australian native bees. I do know there are many kinds and the best way to relocate them would depend on the species that is living in the box. But I just don’t know enough to help, and that makes me sad. I wish I could do something.

  • HI Rusty, back in early March, I followed your instructions to the letter and moved my two hives about 50 feet in a straight line to a new location which was on a bit higher ground than where they had been. We got some over flow from a nearby pond and this was a much better spot to keep them on nice dry footing. It worked like a charm and I was so excited because these hives had thrived over the winter and I was afraid I would lose them both if I moved them. At any rate, I am sharing two brief videos of the bees reorienting to their hives when I opened them three days later. Thank you for the very thorough explanation.


    Sandra Carnet
    Oxer Farm
    Clermont, Georgia

  • Hi, sorry I couldn’t find the correct place to ask this. Installation instructions say:take the frames from the nuc,place them in the center of the hive body and fill in with frames on both sides. When bees build naturally do they start at the center of the cavity and expand in two directions, or do they start at one side and keep expanding till they run out of room. Why can’t you add the frames to one side of the box . Just curious.

    • Richie,

      They start in the middle and go out to both sides. You can put them on the side if you want, but air flow is better in the center. People usually tell you what works best, but that’s not saying you can’t do it another way, if you really want to. Personally, I think you’ll get quicker colony development starting in the center.

  • Thank you for the quick reply. I like how you answer people’s questions without belittling them, this is my first hive and already I am glad that I am adding honey bees to my hobby farm.

  • I live in the Northwest. I have my new hives facing Southeast and would like to shift them around to the East. would it be acceptable to shift one corner slowly over time? Maybe 15 degrees at a time until they are facing East. Another website suggested I do this. What do you think???

  • Hi…
    I found a very big bee hive in my balcony on a Monday. Since my room was near the window I wanted to get rid of it soon so I had a talk with the maintenance guy to get it removed that weekend. But I went out that weekend and was not able to do that job. Monday when I came back, there was no trace of any bees or even hives. None touched the hive. Not even the maintanance guy. Can bees take their hives with them when they move to another place?? I’m really surprised. Kindly explain.

    • Aishwarya,

      It sounds like a swarm settled on your balcony for a few days while it was looking for a home. No, bees cannot take their combs with them. There was most likely no comb inside the bunch of bees. It was just a resting swarm that had no intention of staying on your balcony longer than a few days.

  • I am a new bee keeper and I have just recently removed a feral beehive from an old house on our property and relocated it to my Apiary in an empty hive. I live in southeast New Mexico, so there are plenty of Africanized bees in the area, but this feral hive wasnt one of them (as far as I know). As this was my first hive removal I made a big mess out of everything, and soon wished that I had asked for help from one of my beekeeper friends. After I realized I was out of my league I called for help and the next day we went back and vacuumed them up and I put them in a hive body with an empty hive body on top (for my makeshift feeder). I put a 1″ entrance reducer instead of closing them up completely…was that a mistake? I left them alone for the first day and this evening I made some syrup and put the feeder in the top brood box. When I lifted the inner cover there was a big ball of bees attached to the corner….is this a sign that I captured the queen? Another newby goof that I may have accomplished was not adding any of the brood or honey from the wild hive into my hive. I want to learn the proper way to reclaim a feral hive and save them if possible. Thanks.

  • As usual, I do things, then check to see if I did them right. So, I moved my hive approx. 10 feet last night, to avoid a harvester knocking it over when it comes by during the harvest.

    This morning there are about 30-40 bees hovering around the old location of the hive box, in full view of their new home. Clearly they’re disoriented. However, there are a plenty of new bees hanging about the box in its new location. Hopefully they are not confused and out foraging.

    Duh! I should have read this thread before!

  • I need to move a hive alone. It is way too heavy to move as one unit intact. I have read many times about moving morning and evening, closing the entrance and setting branches. That is all great but if I have to take the hive apart and move it box by box the bees will all be flying.

    Any idea how to move by myself?

    It is up on blocks so I cannot just get a dolly and move them either.

    Thanks for any ideas.

    • Darlene,

      In a case like that, you just do what you have to do. You will lose many of the foragers, but the colony will recover. I sometimes put a brood box in the old location to try to catch some of the stragglers, but they are hard to move even if you catch them.

  • After a couple of days my bees seem to recover from their disorientation, brought on by my ham-fisted moving of the hive. (See my previous post) No more stragglers hanging out at the old location and the bees are acting happy at the new one.

    Did I lose any bees or did they finally discover their new home?

  • Hi. Thank you! I am going to move a hive to another location on my farm. My question is weather. We have 25 to 30 degrees Celsius here with changes of thunderstorms in the next 4 days. Do you think that we can do it now, or wait till the weather is cooler?

    • Mimi,

      If you are going to leave them locked up in that heat, I would make sure they have screened bottoms, screened entrances, and screened inner covers so they can keep themselves cool.

  • Once again Rusty I would like to thank your for the valuable information you have shared on Honey Bee Suite. As a new beekeeper I have found a wealth of information that is truly helpful. Also, your readers comments are a source of information too. Just to let you know I tried the above method to move a hive about 15 feet around the side of the house. In Bahrain we have very high summer temperatures so I only kept them locked in for the night and left branches at front entrance. Early next morning removed the mesh cover and having left lots of branches at entrance (kept them there for 3 days) bees started to orientate. Some bees were seen at old location flying around on the first and second day but after that I guess they realized their home had been moved. That was a week ago and all is well. Thank you 🙂

  • I am an amateur beekeeper just learning this year… until a swarm has taken up residence in an old planting pot. I would like to help them and give them a bigger hive. I need advice on how to move them from the planting pot to their new hive, ie. When is the best time to move them and how? Any other advice is helpful due to the fact that I am just starting out in the wonderful world of beekeeping!

    Thank you for the advice anyone can give me on this situation!

    • Gregory,

      Sooner is better than later. You will have to cut the combs out of the pot and carefully tie them into their new frames, either with string or rubber bands. They will soon attach the combs to the frames and remove the ties.

  • Hi Rusty,

    It’s 12 degrees cool here in southern Australia at the moment. I moved my hive to have it in a sunnier spot using the instructions of closing it up for 72 hours etc.

    This morning, at daybreak, I put the branches in front of the hive and removed the block to the hive entrance. An hour or so later I watched the bees emerge with many of them going straight back to the old location which is about 3 meters away. I had put a box containing 2 frames there, with unused wax foundation, but I doubt that they will be warm enough to survive should they enter that box.

    • Julia,

      Well that’s a bummer. I think putting the box out there confused the issue. If they saw a hive in the old location, they may not have reoriented properly because they didn’t see the need. Next time, don’t give them a choice.

  • Hello Rusty,

    For many years there has been a honey bee colony in a large oak tree on one side of our pasture. In late June, I saw a swarm hanging from the branch of a tree on the other side of the pasture, right above my chicken coops! I hoped it was just resting while the scouts looked for a suitable place to make their new home. Well, now there is a large open air colony established on the branch! I worry about them surviving storms and the winter. Is it possible to surround the colony with some sort of structure attached to the branch? Cutting the branch off and moving the colony to a new, enclosed location is also a possibility, if necessary.

    I would appreciate your thoughts about this. Thanks!

    • Lorieann,

      Please see this post about an open-air colony, if you haven’t already. The bee club made a shelter around the colony and it overwintered just fine. Also, do you have some pictures to share? I’d love to see them as open-air colonies are unusual.

  • Hello Rusty,

    Thanks for the reply. I had seen a different post, somewhere, about covering a hive with canvas for the winter, and I believe they were successful. It was on the side of a tree like the one in your link. My colony is built hanging on a branch AND it’s about 14 feet in the air! I’m not sure how much weight the branch can hold. The growing colony plus a protective structure might eventually be too heavy.

    I would be pleased to share pictures of the colony, how should I share them with you?

    • Lorieann,

      Where are you as far as climate goes? Maybe cutting off the branch and hiving the colony would be the best bet, especially if winters are harsh.

  • Rusty,

    I’m in NE Oklahoma. The last few winters have not been too bad. Some freezing temperatures, thin ice on the ponds, maybe an ice storm and then it warms up to 50’s-60’s. Kind of crazy sometimes!

    Do I post pictures of the colony on this web site somewhere or should I email them to you?

    • Hi Lorieann,

      I sent you instructions by email but yes, attach the photos to an email and send to me (rusty@honeybeesuite.com) or use your Dropbox account and send me a link.

  • I am moving a nuc this week due to emerging small hive beetle issues. My bee yard has gotten shadier this summer and I need to get my two hives into a full sun location. The nuc and the larger hive sit close together on the same hive stand. Question: if the branch in front of the entrance helps to reorient the bees to the new location….would a distraction on the remaining (for now) larger neighbor hive also help the nuc foragers understand that this is not their hive if they head back there? I plan to move the nuc about 300 feet from the original shared hive stand.

    • Beezus,

      I don’t think a branch on the larger hive will have an effect on the bees you are moving. Bees are cued to reorient as they are leaving their hive (not when they are returning) and since they are not leaving that particular hive, they won’t be cued.

  • Hi Rusty, last night I attempted to close up my hive with your instructions, but my screened bottom board was ajar and this morning, lots of bees were flying about. I went back to the hive to officially close it up tonight, and there were hundreds of bees clustered under the bottom board. Why didn’t they climb back in the way they came out? Should I try to scoop them up and dump them in through the top inner cover at night, or let them fend for themselves for the next 48 hours?

    • Tully,

      The bees get confused when you change things. Give them a chance to straighten themselves out before you try again. If they came out where the screen was ajar, they may be trying to get back in that way.

  • Great site! I have read it for a while and tried several things based on your recommendations. Will be working on winter candy boards soon based on your post.

    Currently I need to move a swarm trap less than a 100 feet and then re-hive it. It has only been in the trap for a couple of days and I am not sure how to “feed” it so I can close it up for three days. The trap is a closed box with the just front entrance and a ventilation hole high on the back side.

    Also, I am planning to leave it in the current location for the three days as it is shaded most of the day, the new location is full sun and I am afraid of cooking the bees. Do you see any problem with that? Does re-orientation require they be in the new location for the three days they are locked up?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Perry,

      No, I don’t see a problem with it since they certainly can’t reorient while they are locked up. But without many food stores, it will be hard to lock them up for three days. Maybe you should put them in their new hive at the current location, and then move the whole hive to the new location so you have a way of feeding them.

  • That is a good idea. I was planing to put them in a NUC box I have, but I don’t have a way to feed them in that box – yet.

    I was doing some other checking/reading. What do you think of just pouring in some dry sugar to hold them over? The trap and the NUC have solid bottom boards so it won’t spill out.

    • Perry,

      They can use the sugar, but they will still need a source of water. And if they have brood, they will need pollen or a pollen sub.

  • Rusty,
    Thank you for all the information and this great site!

    I think what I am going to do is move them into the nuc ASAP and leave them in the same location. Once they have had a chance to build up some stores then I will lock them in and move to new location.

  • When moving beehives a short distance, duck tape up entrances after dark, move hive to new location, drape orange safety fence over hive, 2 layers approx. 6″ apart. Note, fence has small holes in it to force bees to reorient to location. Remove duck tape next morning, works like a charm.

  • I would like to move my 2 hives to the front of my house for the winter. They will be well protected from the north wind in the back of my house off
    of a large pond. Is that doable? I liked them in the back, so the neighbors were not bothered by them. And would move them back in the late spring.

    • Erika,

      You can do that. It is easier to move hives in winter because you can lock them up, move them, and leave them locked up for a few days without having them overheat. After that amount of time, they should reorient without much trouble.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I need to lower my hive by 2 feet but will need to level the ground first and put it on a new stand which may take me an hour or so. Using this method how long should I sequester the bees for?

    • Edmun,

      If you are just lowering or raising the hive, you don’t need to sequester your bees. They will figure it out quickly. And if you are just moving it aside while you work, that is no problem either.

  • Rusty,

    Thank you for your web site. It has helped me on several occasions.

    On the topic of moving hives. Is there a recommended temperature to move a hive? At my location, it is currently a cold and wet 40 degrees. I have to move a hive 6 miles to a new apiary. I am sure that the bees are in a cluster and by moving them over the rough roads, the cluster may break apart. My concern is possibly killing some bees, or worse, losing the queen. The new location is a small farm and they would like the bees there as soon as possible. your thoughts?

    • Cliff,

      My personal preference is to move them in cold weather because they are less likely to get overheated while they are cooped up in the hive. Also, if they are clustered, they are not trying to fight their way out. If the cluster comes apart on rough roads (which I doubt) they will just re-cluster. Migratory beekeepers move bees all the time; it just isn’t that difficult or hard on the bees.

  • I have been studying bee-keeping and this marvellous website over the last year or so and have now bought myself a hive. Bees not infrequently swarm into my urban neighbourhood in north-east Spain. I am hoping that a swarm will find the hive and install themselves there. Is that possible or likely? Is there any particular way i.e. N, S, E or W I should point the hive entrance/exit? There is a 4ft wall around the perimeter of my roof terrace and I was thinking of placing them in a corner of that wall with a higher building so that the back of the hive, almost right against the wall, faces SE and the front of the hive with the entrance/exit slots NW. Would this work?

    • Nick,

      Morning sun is good for honey bees, so I always try to have the front of the hive facing toward the morning sun so light comes in the entrance. With a brand new hive, it is easier to attract bees with a swarm lure or a used piece of comb#&8212;something with an attractive odor. Otherwise the new hive isn’t very likely to fill. Do you know a beekeeper who could give you a used comb (disease-free, of course)? You could also buy or make a swarm lure with lemongrass oil. Or maybe you can catch the next swarm you see.

  • Hmm. I have 10 almost-new frames with partially used comb that I bought, which has been bee-free for at least 6 months. How do I know if it is disease-free and, if I cannot know that, is there some harmless substance I could apply to it?

    Lemongrass oil should be available here. Could I just apply this to some of the combs on the frames?

    Many thanks for this blog and your continuing interest and passion on a subject thatI suspect will become quite engrossing for me too.


    • Nick,

      You really can’t tell if it’s disease-free, although it probably is. The worse problem is American foulbrood, and we know the spores can survive for over 40 years. So it’s best to look at the comb. If it doesn’t have a lot of dead and dried up brood, that’s a good sign. Also, if possible, you might ask the prior owner if he ever had foulbrood or ask him how his bees died. The lemongrass oil can be used to attract new bees, but it won’t do anything for disease organisms.

  • We caught a swarm in our swarm box yesterday. We plan to move them about 10 feet away from the hive to basically under the same tree, but little ways out. We wanted to move them today, but things got crazy and didn’t get it done. Now it is supposed to rain for the next 4 days… ugh. Just a bit confused as to what to do when and what is the best way. We have split a couple and they are doing great using your method. The hive box is large with a couple of frames in it. We have the hive set up to put it into. Do you just dump the bees in? I was advised to shut the entrance off on the new hive by stuffing it with grass and putting the brush in front. I am worried about the bees that might not make it into the box before we close it and if they might get lost or rained on since they can’t get back in through the front entrance. Do you have a preference when to move them into the box?

    Sincerely thank you for any help on any of this.

    • Rebecca,

      I just dump the swarm into the box and let them reorient. I do not block the entrance for the reason you stated. As soon as you dump them in, workers will start fanning the entrance to let the rest know where to come. Feeding will encourage them to stay and will help them get some comb built.

  • Thank you so much, Rusty. We got them moved and they seem quite happy in their new home. 🙂
    I love your site!

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks for all of the great information on your site. I have a question regarding moving my bees. I followed the examples and locked them up for 3 days. Let them out this morning and placed a bushy branch in front on the hive opening. They seem to be checking it out as stated they would do. My concern is that after about 30 minutes of opening up the hive I have about a hundred or so bees at the old location. Is this normal for them to go back and check it out, or does it mean they have not re-oriented themselves. If they have not should I put the hive back where it was? Thanks so much for your input.

    • Kay,

      Moving a colony is tricky business and you will always have some that fail to reorient. As long as it’s in the hundreds (and not thousands) the colony will be fine. You can always collect the stragglers and bring them back, but that will only work with some of them. No point putting hive back where it was because now some will be oriented to the new spot. Remember that an average spring or summer colony losses somewhere between 1000-2000 bees per day, so a few hundred is not a lot.

  • Hello Rusty,

    I’ve been reading your submissions to BeeCraft and following your blog for some time and I value your advice.

    I’ve caught a swarm in a five bar nucleus bait hive and I need to move it to a permanent hive about sixty feet away. Using your method how long after I’ve moved the bees and kept them in for three days could I re-hive them into a brood box in that position?

    • Chippy,

      The hard part is getting them moved to the new location. The sooner you do it, the better, especially since you just caught the swarm. Sometimes, even after a few days of quarantine, some bees will go back to the old spot. In any case, after they are in the right spot, it should be easy to put them in the brood box, just switch the box and it shouldn’t take but an hour or so for them to feel at home.

      In other words, move the bait hive soon. After a few days, let them free. If they seem to be oriented, just switch them over to the brood box. Also, since it’s a swarm with no stores, make sure they have food and water.

      • Thanks for your help Rusty.

        It all went well, seven combs built now! The queen was marked as one of last year’s queens and as the colony is small the swarm trap has been put back out to hopefully catch a cast with a new queen. The plan is to cull the original queen and combine the colonies.

  • Rusty,

    We feel we need to move our hive so that it gets some afternoon shade as we’re experiencing bearding in the afternoons now. Our property is near Calistoga CA, in the “Wine Country”, we’re on 5 acres with native grasses and wildflowers, there are woods to the east and west, apple orchard to the north and wine grape vineyard to the south, lots of flowers and nectar flowing at the moment, creek flowing that borders south and west of the property; it is common for us to experience high temperatures of 94 deg F for several weeks on end, we’re getting that weather now.

    Bit of background, we are new to beekeeping, one week under the belt. We found this swarm on our property and since we’ve always wanted to have hives of our own we started looking for assistance. A gent with the local beekeeping society came to our rescue that same day in the late afternoon early evening, brought his suits, veils, an empty EZ Nuc box with one medium depth “experienced” frame of comb in it, and we cut the branch of the tree the bees has settled on and put them in the nuc box. Next day I prepared an area near our vegetable and flower garden by laying down timbers as a foundation, purchased a solid bottom, 10 frame deep Langstroth box, top feeder and cover and set that up with a gallon of sugar water. We placed the nuc box next to the hive I opened both up and tried to brush the bees in, wearing only veil, hat and gloves, then decided to just put the branch in front of the hive, they moved right in. The tree where they settled is about 150 feet away from this point, the bees were coming back to that tree for about 3 days but they have stopped doing that.

    Enough background, here is the challenge, we realize now that we have to raise the hive up from the timbers, will do that with a stand, also need to move it to an area with some afternoon sun, all the local beekeepers we’ve talked to, a total of 3, agree on this, so we will do that. We have picked a good spot but it is about 40 feet to the south east and slightly up hill from the current location of the hive. I don’t think we can keep those bees cooped up in this heat for 72 hours as they won’t get enough ventilation, so I am thinking to do all you recommend but also add a tent/shade structure over the hive during the “jury” sequestration period, so it doesn’t get as much midday sun and can stay cooler, something that has plenty of clearance from the hive, like a beach shade “tent”. What are your thoughts on that?

    We also need to add a super so the plan was to do that all at once but am thinking perhaps we move it, let them out after a couple days per your recommended method with distraction branch etc. and then add the super a week later or so. What are your thoughts on that?

    I could send pictures of the set up if you like, we have videos and pictures of all this at my instagram and facebook accounts.

    Oh and that frame that was in the nuc box is a medium size, it is sitting in our large box with 9 large frames, would like to switch that out someday but currently that is the only frame with egg laying activity (as of 2 days ago) so not sure if that will be possible, suggestions in that regard?

    Best regards,


    • Galen,

      In the first paragraph you want to give the bees afternoon shade; in the third paragraph, afternoon sun. Just saying.

      Anyway, moving bees short distances is always difficult. When it is hot, it is especially difficult. At the very least I would make sure they have water in addition to syrup. They need the water for cooling the hive, not just drinking, so you could give then an entrance feeder of water. Also they should have a screened bottom and screened inner cover in addition to the shade you will provide.

      You can also shorten the sequestration to a day or so. The shorter the time, the more will travel back to the original location. But it’s a give and take: you can lose bees by having them go back and you can lose bees to heat. The whole thing is a judgement call. Then too, some will go back no matter how long you keep them locked up, so be sure to look for a knot of stragglers at the old location. You can put that ball of bees back in the hive and, each time, fewer will go back.

      I think I would add the super now simply because a tall hive has more of a “chimney effect” which will pull some of the heat out of the brood box.

      For now I would leave the medium frame in place. The bees will add comb to the bottom of it, making it match the length of the deeps. This is not a problem. You can change it sometime in the future when it’s empty and, at that time, cut the comb off the bottom.

      • Rusty,
        Thanks for the prompt response and yes that sun was a typo, meant shade. Some more newby questions, appears I should pull out the entrance reducer, I am currently using the small opening, install the entrance feeder with a new temporary entrance reducer that is completely closed the evening before the move, correct? The top feeder is probably empty today so I didn’t plan on filling it until after the move, which would be a few days from now if I make this move tonight. Am thinking now that the correct sequence is probably to add the super and bottom feeder – water source first then move, all strapped together, of course this is more to move and I will be carrying by hand/hand truck over rough ground. Am thinking this will be quite the trick to pull off.

        • Galen,

          How about this. Tape a piece of thin cardboard, sturdy paper, or corrugated plastic over the brood box in place of everything else. Move hive with hand truck. After hive is in place, add super, inner cover, and lid on top of cardboard. Then (you may need help for this) just lift the top stuff slightly, just enough to pull out the cardboard. Do it quickly like the tablecloth trick so bees don’t start coming out.

          Moving a hive with a hand truck is hard. I made a plywood platform that sits on the base of the hand truck so the hive is actually on a flat surface, then I strap the hive together as well as strap the hive to the hand truck.

          Although it’s difficult, it sure beats a wheelbarrow. I once moved a hive up a hill in a wheelbarrow. Near the top of the hill the wheelbarrow tipped over and the whole thing rolled about thirty feet down an embankment. Once I retrieved all the boxes, I stacked them up in their new place and the colony was fine. They never missed a beat. Weird, huh?

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have another hive I just relocated and I’m using the 3 day rule, it worked pretty good last time. My question is will the bees still re-orient if top and bottom of hive are open or does it need to be closed? It is hot low 90’s so I removed the top cover and just have a top screen on instead of the inner cover, and a screened bottom. I wasn’t sure if they need to be in the dark, to re-orient.


  • Hi Rusty,
    Thanks for all the great information on you page, it’s helped so much! But one problem has occurred: I had to move 3 hives of which one is a very big colony and two smaller ones of which one is currently rearing a queen which should hatch within the next 3 days. Following all instructions after 3 days there was a ton of bees returning to the old spot. So many in fact, I put a rescue box in place in the evening, captured them and locked them up after dark. Now my question on how to reintroduce them to one of the three existing hives? Which method should I use as it must be a mix of foragers from all 3 hives. Your advice is much appreciated!

    • Ann,

      Just put them above a piece of newspaper. You can put a slit in the paper, or not. They will figure it out.

  • Hi Rusty, I’ve studied this post for a week, but I’m just so nervous I could use some confirmation. I’ve just moved my hive about 50 feet. Screened bottom, screened inner cover and screened entrance. It is just so hot here in the summer (96-99 degrees the next 3 days) that I’m really worried about the heat. They have lots of honey and I placed a sugar water bucket on top of their screened inner cover. I also am placing a huge yard umbrella over them and am considering a wet towel that I can keep moist over part of their screened inner cover. Are they really going to be ok in there for 3 days? Should I shorten the time due to the heat? I would have waited until late fall to move them if I could have. Worried in Central CA…

    • Diana,

      I would be nervous too, but you did all the logical things. You mentioned the wet towel, and I think that would be fine if, like you said, you only cover part of the top. It’s important to keep the air flowing through the hive from bottom to the top. You can shorten the time if you want. The shorter the time, the more foragers will go back to the old location. So it’s a give and take. You could lose some to the heat or you could lose some from returning to the old location. If you have a infrared thermometer or camera you could monitor the hive temperature. Or even putting a regular thermometer on the screened cover would help. You could see what the air temperature is as it leaves the hive. Low 90s would be good. If they do enough fanning and you keep them in the shade it might work. Let me know what happens.

  • Thank you Rusty,

    I like the idea of monitoring the temperature with a thermometer on the inner screened cover. I will do this for sure. I put a large, 9-foot cloth white umbrella over them and turned on a sprinkler to run over the top of the umbrella (but not allowing the hive to get wet). There’s just a slight breeze, but I’m hoping it works a bit like an outdoor swamp cooler. If it gets too hot, I will just open the hive and pray enough branches in the front helps most of the foragers find their way home. So stressful!

  • I’m looking for some advice regarding moving 2 of my hives. They are being moved 5km away so orientation & returning to original site shouldn’t be a problem.

    They are both 10-frame deeps with a single brood box and one super. I inspected today hoping to simply remove the supers containing honey & possible pollen, basically any frames not containing brood. I intended to rearrange frames as required & once moved return hive to ‘original’ configuration. I don’t use queen excluders as each time I’ve introduced them the queen has completely stopped laying. So, I discovered today that the queen has been very busy throughout both boxes & I have only 5 frames with no brood in them. This puts paid to my being able to remove a super of non-brood frames.

    I will have help moving the hives but not enough muscle between us to be able to lift & carry the hive as it is now configured. I don’t have the option of putting them onto a wheelbarrow etc. as they are at the top of a steep hill and have to negotiate steps & quite rough terrain.

    I am looking for suggestions as to how best to move them, please? I will be moving them very early morning prior to dawn, so they don’t have to be closed up for very long. Any separation between boxes would be overnight as I would have to do day before. I am starting to go a bit loopy trying to work out how to manipulate the hive down to singles for the move.

    I should mention I have a time constraint. I have a new greyhound who ‘leaps tall buildings in a single bound’ & has navigated his way through every barrier I’ve made to prevent him interacting with the hives. He was stung on his first day home after leaping over a 1.5m blockade and into a very dense shrubbery then straight to the front of the first hive. I managed to get hold of him & made it back to the back door, 30m away without being stung, there was one persistent bee just not happy with us only going so far & he was stung on his belly. He screamed, however I think he is one of those dogs that doesn’t learn from past experience.

    The other constraint is weather. We are building up to our really hot summer weather. The next two days are the only two forecast to be cool enough over the next fortnight, 22-24 degrees. From Thursday onwards temps will be 36 and up, so definitely not a time to be moving any bees then. For reference I’m in Victoria, Australia.

    I’m asking you Rusty as you often have creative solutions, also the advice you give works, I think because you actually think about & consider many more factors than others might. Not to mention the years of experience. Any suggestions gratefully received.

    kind regards,

    • Kirsten,

      It’s funny you asked this as I’m about to do the same thing once spring comes, only I’m going up the hill not down.

      I cut some boards the same size as the footprint of the hive. I plan to break each hive in half the evening before and put the top box on one board with a screened inner cover and a lid. Then I will strap that together with a tie-down. The bees won’t be able to go in or out of that box, but there should be enough nurses in there to care for the brood.

      The original box will stay on the bottom board with an entrance so the bees can come in that night. It will also have a screened inner cover. After dark, I will close the entrance and strap that box together with a tie-down.

      The next morning I will move the single boxes. Once in the new location, I will put the hives back together. I imagine this will be a lot of work, but it’s the only way I can imagine doing the steep slope.

  • Rusty,

    My wife and I have a hive in our backyard in an urban neighborhood. We recently had to move the hive temporarily because of a gas leak in the adjacent neighbors yard. We made the mistake of not researching properly. We moved the hive back a week ago and things seem fine except about 50-75 bees continue to congregate at the temporary spot during the day. I caught as many as I could today and put them back in the hive. The temporary spot is approximately 45 feet away but cannot be seen from the original spot. Advice? Concerns?

    Thank you!

    • Dave and Becky,

      It’s too late at this point to do anything since the move is already done. You will probably lose those bees that keep going back to the temporary position, but at least it’s not many.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I intend on moving 5 of my hives approx 2km.

    My hives have solid bottom boards (not screened) and no ventilation in the lid, if I blocked the entrance to the hives with mesh would you consider this adequate ventilation for them to survive the days that you recommend sequestering them at the new location?

    Thanks for the tips

    • Peter,

      That totally depends on how hot it is. Can you replace the lid with a piece of mesh? That would help a lot. By the way, at 2 km you probably don’t have to lock them up for long.

  • Could use your advice Rusty.

    I had a swarm move into a trap I set that is ~100-150 yards from where I keep my hives, they have been in there for 4 days and activity is looking good at the front of the trap. (I am in NorCal)

    Any thoughts on when I should move them? Most are saying leave them in place for a week.

    My plan is to follow your recipe above.

    -Close off the entrance to the trap in the evening with a screen.

    -Move them to my apiary, and dump in a hive. Any combs they have built will get attached to frames with rubber bands as I will have to pull them out of the trap (its a flower pot with one small hole).

    -Screen the (new) hive entrance, so they are confined for ~72 hours as you recommend above.

    -The AM when I remove the screen, place limbs etc. in front for re-orientation

    I am concerned that when they are confined that they need food and water, should I put a feeder with syrup inside the new hive to hold them over?

    Does this sounds like a good plan to you?

    Many thanks, my timing is short so I hope you get a chance to read this.


    • Steven,

      Not that it matters at this point, but I prefer to move them immediately, just moments after they move in, and before they have a chance to learn their way around.

      But in this case, your plan sounds fine. Definitely give them food and water and make sure they have plenty of ventilation.

  • Rusty,

    I live in Central Oregon and am planning on moving my two hives (and myself) 130 miles north in August or September. I would appreciate any advice you can give me to make this move successful and with minimal stress to me and “my girls”. I plan on transporting them in the back of our pickup truck and hopefully move them at night to the new location, set them up and keep them sequestered for a few days. They will have lots of rural acreage to play in. I have screened inner covers and screened bottom boards to help with air circulation during the drive, and will use ‘moving robber screens’ at the front entrance that are secured carefully, and hive staples to secure my two deep hives together and of course tight racket straps. I’m also planning on using a hive net on each hive. I have been following you for quite sometime. You are my go-to site for information!!!!! Thank you for educating me. I appreciate any insight you have to help me with this upcoming move. Thank you in advance for your thoughts/recommends.


    • Sharon,

      Since you are moving the bees more than 2 miles, you have no need to keep them sequestered in the new location. Since they won’t recognize the terrain, even from the air, they will be forced to re-orient immediately. If moving day is hot, make sure they have some water. They use it for evaporative cooling, so it’s important for survival. If they have uncured nectar, that will work, too.

  • Rusty, I just found your site and need a little advice.

    I have 1 hive in back yard. I had some empty hive boxes on the porch and some bees moved in a couple days ago. They can’t stay on the porch and need to move about 60′; I don’t have a place or the means to take them 2 miles away and then back. The box is currently sitting directly on the cement without a bottom board etc. I won’t be leaving boxes on the porch anymore!

    I’m thinking lift it up and slide in a bottom board and let them settle down for a few days before trying to move them?

    We are having a heat wave here and I am also concerned about shutting them in for 3 days even with good ventilation? Leaving them on the porch shut in would be a little cooler then in the sunny spot they are headed for but it’s still going to be really hot. Any advice?

    • Linda,

      If you move the bees a short distance without locking them up, all the foragers will return to the porch location whether the hive is there or not. Wait until the whether cools and then do it.

  • I didn’t know that the best time to move a hive is in the evening or early morning because they are almost all in there. There is a beehive in my backyard and I really want to move it so that my little kids don’t get hurt. I am glad I found this article because I was just gonna move it at any time of day. Thanks for your helpful advice on how to relocate bees.

  • Hello Rusty, I am trying to move my TBH to a new location about a hundred yards away and need your advice. It does not have a whole lot of ventilation except really the entrance. Our temperature is higher 70s to 80s. What I was going to do is close the entrance with light screen mesh and put some water in the hive and then try to move it. Do you think that it would be too hot to leave them locked up for 3 days? Or could it work? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Peter,

      Definitely screen the entrance and, if possible, shade the hive for the days when the bees are locked up. Try to put up something that blocks the sun, but not something that will hold in the heat. The water will help as well.

  • Just thought I would share. I keep moisture quilts on my hives during the winter and summer. The quilt keeps moisture down and insulates during the winter and during the summer my bees get good ventilation. I keep my shavings in the quilt during the winter and take them all out during the summer. If I have to lock my bees in because of moving or robbing the quilt helps a lot with ventilation.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I could use a little advice. Our home’s roof is going to be redone very soon. Our bees are right up against our house, in a top-bar hive. The roofers have asked that we move the bees, while they are working. I had planned on moving them over to a friend’s place but after reading some of the Q & A, on this blog, I am rethinking. I live in South Louisiana where it is in the 90s and very humid right now. Would the bees be better off screened in and confined to their current location for a few days or should we attempt to temporarily move them? Seems much easier to cover the openings with screen than to relocate for 3 days. Any input would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Yes, you can just cover the hive with screen. But first, add a feeder filled with plain water. They will need it to keep cool.

  • Hi Rusty

    I’m in the south of the UK and the weather at the moment is about 16-20 degrees with pretty strong winds. I collected my bees yesterday and they have been located in what I thought was a good position but it turns out its not the best place. I have another location in the garden which is about 20 feet from where they are now. They have been out foraging today but I would like to move them to the new location tonight. My question is do I need to go through the re-orientation process since they have only been located for one night and one day. Thanks.

  • Hi Rusty

    I went ahead and moved the hive and kept them shut in for 48 hours. I placed a makeshift box in the old location and let the bees out. The makeshift box collected 4 bees during the day which I safely transferred to the hive, the hive was very active all day. Today the bees have been in and out all day and seem to have settled well with lots of pollen going in. There have been no bees at the old location all day today so I think I got away with it this time.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Yesterday I discovered that a swarm has inhabited an empty hive that is sitting under the stairs to my house, lucky me! I am planning to move them tonight with this method, which has worked for me before. However, since it is not an established hive and they have no stores, I’m planning to feed them with my top feeder. Its the kind that has upside-down jars with tiny holes punched in the lids. 2 questions:

    1. I’d like to give them some water too, and I’m wondering if those jar-type top feeders will work for water as well as syrup?

    2. We are getting highs of about 70-75 F here in the Colorado mountains with clouds and rain this week, plus I have set up a tarp for shade. I have a screened bottom board but a wooden inner top cover. Do you think it will be ok without the screened inner cover for extra ventilation?

    • Tully,

      Yes, a syrup feeder will work for water. That’s pretty warm. Can you staple a piece of fabric on top of the hive to replace the lid? At least it would breathe a little.

  • There is a well known saying in beekeeping that in the summer you should move a colony less than 3 feet, or more than 3 miles and within reason, this works well. In my experience bees seem to remember their location for about 3 weeks in the summer, so remember 3,3 and 3.

  • I’m wondering if just moving the boxes 6-8 inches a few times a week will keep my bees intact to move them about 30 ft to a better spot? I caught a swarm and didn’t have room to expand in my bee yard. I built a spot and now would like them there.

    • Caryn,

      That should work if you’ve got the time. Six inches three times a week would move your hive 30 feet in just 20 (!) weeks.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am a beginner beekeeper just starting with my first swarm this spring. I caught a swarm using a 6 frames bait box on a tree. I can see some activity at the entrance of the box. I have two questions:

    1) How to tell when it’s time to take the box down and move the frames to the hive? I read in blogs after a week of seeing activity. However, I haven’t seen any bees carrying pollen.

    2) can I use this trick right away when taking the box down and putting the frames in the hive and immediately moving the hive into the new location 30 meters away from the tree to minimize disturbance?

    We have rainy weather on and off where I live. It can rain for a few hours throughout the day every day so any bees left behind are in great danger of death.

  • Hey there Rusty! We are in the process of relocating two hives 200 ft from their current location. We’ve just opened up one hive, using a branch as suggested at the entrance. They had been locked up for roughly 30 hours, but many are returning to the old location (but also some to the new, as well). I’ve left a bait hive in the old spot and keep transferring them back to their new location. Would you suggest we just keep bringing them back (not sure if this will help them reorient), or lock them up again, and if so, for how long? Wondering if we’ll have to start the 72-hour period all over again, or will this even work a second time around? I know you mentioned moving the hive back to the original location, so they all return and then try again, but moving the hive back and forth again will be tricky.

    For the second hive that’s still locked up, we’ll likely do so for the full 72 hours, as this seems like the sweet amount of time to wait, or at least as close to that as possible. Curious to know if it’s a memory thing, or what about keeping them hold up inside helps them forget the old location/adjust to the new?

    • Hi Chelsea,

      I think it’s mostly just a memory thing. When they do orientation flights, they circle around and around learning the landmarks, which can be trees, fences, buildings, hills, or bodies of water that help them to learn where their hive is. By locking them up for several days, you are trying to force them to re-orient—to throw out what they know and learn something new. For whatever reason, this doesn’t work with all the bees, and every time you move a hive you will have some losses.

      Usually, when you capture the ones returning to the old location and move them, some of those will re-learn but there will always be some that don’t. After a few days, however, the queen pheromone will become less at the old site and greater at the new site, which usually helps.

      Since you moved the original hive a couple of days ago, I would not return it to the old site unless something is terribly wrong because you will have the exact problem you have now: the ones that have reoriented to the new site will return to the new site. Once you start moving hives, you are more or less stuck with it.

      I think it’s more important that you let the newly emerging bees and the ones who’ve reoriented establish themselves without further interruption. The others will likely straggle in overtime, but you will lose some. Nevertheless, both you and the colony need to move on.

      • Appreciate the added info, that all makes sense to me! That said, would you bother sequestering them again, to support this process? Or not since we’ve opened up already? That way those reoriented/newly emerged can keep doing their thing?

        • Chelsea,

          Right, I think at this point you’re better off just letting them get on with life.

  • The guide does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of choosing the right time and weather conditions for moving a beehive. Understanding the behavior of bees during different seasons and planning the move accordingly can significantly reduce stress and minimize disruption to the colony.

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