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.