Back to top

How To Move A Beehive Without Ruining It

When you decide to move a beehive, there are a few things you will need to consider. It doesn’t matter whether you need to move your hive a short or long distance. If you remember the proper guidelines, you will be able to move your hive with ease!

In order to move your beehive correctly, there are things you will need to take note of—these are things like distance, time of day, the different landmarks in both the old and new location, and the available tools.  When you make mistakes, your bees are at risk of dying and getting dangerously worked up!

Are you unsure how to go about moving your hive? Don’t worry, I have got you covered! Since our honey bee population is declining at faster rates than ever, it is important to take careful steps to move your hives without harming or even killing your stinger friends!

How To Move A Beehive: The Materials Needed For Moving A Hive

  • Screen or mesh
  • Duct tape
  • Cushioning for the car ride (if transportation is needed)
  • Spray bottle filled with clean and fresh water
  • Carpenters level
  • Shims

How To Move A Hive: The Preparation

Before you can start the hive moving process, you need to pay extra attention to the preparation before you can begin.

I conducted a small list of things you can “check off” your to-do list before visiting the hive you wish to move:

  • Suit up. Your bees can become extremely agitated when their home moves around, and who could blame them for being concerned? This is why it is important to wear protective gear such as your full beekeeping suit, including the gloves and veil, when moving your hive.

Remember, even if you have already sealed the hive, there is always a chance that some bees could find a way out, or there may be some stragglers around that won’t appreciate your efforts.

  • Stap up. When moving a beehive, it is of utmost importance to make sure it all stays together. You can secure the baseboard to the brood box using straps or ropes. For the longer-distance movers, you can use a couple of ratchet straps to be 100% safe. For shorter distances, a single strap would be more than enough.
  • Shut the door, or don’t! The distance you plan to travel will indicate whether or not you should seal the entrance of your beehive before you can start to move it. For a move less than 9 meters (30 feet), you should leave the hive open—anything further than that, it is recommended that you should seal up the entrance.

The best time to seal your hive would be at night or very early in the morning while all your bees will be inside the hive. By doing this, you will avoid losing any bees that may be out foraging. If there are some bees around the hive entrance, you may use your smoker to encourage them back inside carefully.

There is no need to blow smoke directly into the hive, but a few puffs of smoke should be enough to guide them inside. When the bees are in, you can block the entrance. You can also cover the entrance with mesh and secure the mesh with tape or staples.

  • Try to stay as calm as you possibly can. As any beekeeper should know, hives can get heated up very quickly, so proper ventilation is really important! When you are sealing your hive before moving it, always make sure that the air can circulate.

Some hives come with a built-in ventilation control, so make sure that it is opened. If you have a screened baseboard, ventilation is taken care of. If you do not have a screened board, you will want to use mesh to staple or tape over the hive entrance. Also, be mindful not to leave the hive in direct sunlight for long.

  • Bees know their home. Bees are very oriented to where their hive is located. When you are moving a beehive, you want to ensure that your bees will get used to their new home and not return to their original hive location.

The distance you want to move will determine the method you should use for the highest chance of success. If you’re going to move the hive further than 4 miles, the bees will not recognize the new area and are unlikely to return to their old spot.

If you’re moving a shorter distance than 4 miles, you will have to take some steps to ensure the bees can find their hive at the new location.

When you feel like you are fully prepared, you can now decide to start your hive moving process!

How To Move A Beehive: Long Distance moves (more than 4 miles)

  1. First of all, you need to make sure that both you and the hive are recure. Suit up. Stap up, shut the door, and stay as calm as you can.
  2. Use a pickup truck or a trailer to transport your bees safely. Transporting a beehive inside of a vehicle is dangerous. If the bees get out, you could be in some serious trouble!
  3. Keep your smoker close to you during transportation if your bees go into stress and can get aggressive.
  4. When you are placing your hive on the pickup or trailer, make sure it sits as close to level as it can. With some hives, you can adjust the legs to make sure your hive is steady and well-balanced.
  5. Strap the hive on tightly using strong straps. It is recommended to use ratchet straps, as they are fully secure.
  6. Set up your hive, get it level, take the straps off gently, and open the entrance when you have reached the new location. The bees will come out and get acquainted with their new home!

How To Move A Beehive: Short-Distance Moves: 30 Feet – 4 Miles)

  1. Again, before you start to move your hive, follow the essential steps: Suit up, strap up, shut the door, and stay calm.
  2. Once your beehive is prepared, move it and set it up in the new location. Before opening the hive entrance, put something in front of it. You can hang a towel over the entrance or just rest a branch against it. By doing this, you will help your bees to reorient to the new location.

As they leave the hive, they will notice that something is different, and they will be less likely to return to where the hive was originally situated. Even with this step, it is likely that some of your bees will still return to the original hive location. If it does happen, you can collect the bees in a box and bring them to the new place.

 You may need to do this several days in a row to get them reoriented. Another option to practice is making two long-distance moves. Take your beehive to the new spot more than 4 miles away, and leave them for three weeks. Then move them back and place the hive in the new area. By this time, they will have forgotten the original location of the hive and should reorient to the new place immediately!

How To Move Your Beehive: Shorter Moves (Less Than 30 Feet)

  1. If you want to move the hive less than 30 feet, it can be done incrementally, day by day. You can move the hive up to 6 feet a day.
  2. Make sure that you still fully suit up and secure the hive with straps, but in this case, you can leave the hive entrance open.
  3. Initially, your bees will return to the original location, but the hive will still be close enough that they will find their way back. Any further, and they probably will not be able to locate their hive.
  4. The following day, you can move the hive another 6 feet and carry on until you have it fully set up in the new location. Them, your bees will be able to settle into their new neighborhood.

Things To Avoid When Moving A Beehive

Now you know exactly what to do when moving your beehive. It only makes sense to warn you about things you should avoid doing when moving your beehive:

  1. Avoid relocating bees during the middle of the day! Before sunrise in the morning or after sunset are the best options. This is because bees are less active during this time of day, and all of your bees are in the hive.

You lose many foraging worker bees if you move the hive during the day, during the peak of foraging activity. A cool, windy, or rainy day when the bees don’t fly out, allows relocation during the day as well.

  • Avoid relocating bees on warm/hot days! (A good temperature range is between 7°C and 16°C; the cooler the better for you and your stinger friends) Bees have to find water at their new location, and they need plenty of it on a hot day (up to one liter a day)
  • Do not forget the water! When the hives have been placed at their new location, spray a water mist around the entrance before opening it. If your bees are desperate for water after a couple of hours of being locked in, they will definitely find a few drops immediately and be very thankful.
  • Avoid using anything other than duct tape and flywire screens to seal your hive. Before moving the hive, you will need to make sure that none of your bees will be able to get out during transport. You have two choices when it comes to closing off your hive: Use duct tape to close off the entrance; recommended only if the hive is relatively well ventilated and the weather is cool. If not, use flywire screens.
  • Avoid placing your hive directly on the ground. When installing a hive in a new location, always use a hive stand to elevate the hive and separate it from the moist ground. This is done to preserve the wood and also to improve the air circulation in and around the hive. Moisture is one of the biggest enemies of bees and could even spoil their delicious honey!
  • Avoid placing your hive on a level location. When you are installing your hive in the new location, always ensure that the hive is tilted to the front. Should any water get into the hive, it can run out of the entrance rather than flood the bottom board and drown the bees.   

Why Bees Reorientate When You Move Their Hive

Some instances cause bees to reorientate, and this behavior is what we are trying to trigger in our bees when we decide to move their hive to a new location. Suppose your bees have been confined in their hive for more than 72 hours, they normally reorientate. By not being able to get out of their hive, they give off their “alarm” pheromones to alarm the others that something unnatural has happened.

Years ago, when beekeeping was a much smaller practice than it is now, a closed hive entrance only meant one thing for the bees: a branch has fallen, covering their entrance, so they better reorientate. This is where we, as smart beekeepers, can play a little trick on our bees to get them to reorientate!

Bees Use Landmarks To Orientate Themselves

While your bees are out foraging, they use certain landmarks to orientate themselves back to their hive successfully. They use polarized light to determine their relative speed to the landscape passing beneath them. Bees also have an internal honing device that works like the modern-day GPS to orientate themselves by magnetic variations around them!

 Once the location or landmark is set in their memory, they do not have to reorientate each time that they leave the hive. The bees exactly know how to get home, except when you move their hive, which is where the problem starts. Trees, of course, don’t just walk off in the wild, so we can work with their alert system and use it to trigger our bees to reorientate!

Helping Your Bees To Reorientate

When moving a hive a short distance, put sticks and branches at the front of the hive. By doing this, you will provide them with a reason to reorientate. If you do not use something at the entrance of their hive to trigger them into reorientating, the bees will fly out of their hive to go foraging and then return to the original hive location, not knowing that their hive has been moved.

 The bees will then begin to hover at the hiveless location. They will start looking for their “lost” hive by flying in increasing figure eights, using their fairly good sense of smell to find out where their hive is. If you have other hives nearby, your bees may end up trying to go into the closest hive. You can lose a lot of bees this way, so it would be a safer bet to trigger their reorientating pattern once they have left the new hive location.

However, it would be good to keep in mind that altering the hive entrance with a few branches may not trigger all of the bees in the colony to reorientate, and they will cluster at the old location. If this happens, put an empty nuc or swarm box at the old location and wait until the night, then close up the nuc box and move the bees to the hive at the new location as soon as possible.

Moving The Hive Across Your Yard

If you only want to move a hive from one corner of your yard to another corner, you may have it the easiest of all beehive movings, and you can use another way to get your hive across your yard.

Many beekeepers are successful by moving their hive a foot closer to the location at night. It may sound strange, and you might get a weird look from one of your neighbors, but it is the easiest and fastest way. Again, this will only work if it is in the same yard!

Moving Your Beehive

Whether you are moving the beehive only a few feet or a few miles away, you want to close up the entrance when all of the bees have returned for the night. You will often have no choice but to wait until night since your bees will be out often foraging past sunset during the summertime.

In the fall or winter, all your bees will usually be back in their hive once the temperature is too cool to fly, which is about 45-50 degrees.

Your bees will need sufficient ventilation during the move. The screen or mesh duct-taped over the entrance allows the bees to be still able to circulate air in the hive during the move. Having ventilation is especially important during the hotter months of the year, where it can be very warm at night.

 Be sure to check the back of your hive, as some colonies have an opening by the false back, and this would be a surprise to find out while driving your bees off to their new location. Your bees will find any open hole to get out of their closed hive.

 If there are some top bars that don’t have any comb on them and are loose, you may want to put a strip of duct tape along all of the top bars to keep them from moving during the car ride.

More About The Car Ride With Your Hive Full Of Bees

If you are moving the hive between 2 and 3 miles away and putting it into your car or truck, it will benefit you to use some padding to cushion the bumps along the way. A few bumps can shake up your beehive significantly. Your bees are resilient, but the less disruption you cause them, the better!

If you are moving the hive during the summer, you will also need to spray the entrance with some water. A full beehive can overheat very quickly, and you may notice your bees pressing on the screen to get out. For the ride, either put on the air conditioning or fully roll down your windows so that your stinger friends have some airflow and ventilation!

What Time Of Day Is Best To Move Your Beehive?

You can move the hive either at night or the first thing in the morning before your bees get a chance to go out foraging. In the summertime, this can be anything from 6 am or even earlier! It is stressful for your bees to be confined in their hive, and they will easily get bored and look for things to do.

Have The New Location Set Up For A Beehive

Make sure that you have the hive stand or cinder blocks completely leveled as best as you can before the bees arrive. Once you place the hive, re-level it before taking off the screen. You may want to bring some shims to use to level your hive. Remember, a full top bar of bees and honey can be quite on the heavy side, so having someone to help is necessary.

Be Especially Aware Of Any Fragile, Newly Drawn Out Comb

If it is a new hive and your bees have not yet drawn out much comb, remember that the virgin comb is extremely fragile, as your bees have not penetrated the comb cells or used propolis to attach the comb to the side of the hive. It would be good to note that the warmer outside, the more fragile the new comb will be. You might want to wait until your bees have built up some significant comb before you decide to move the hive.

Conclusion

When it comes to the well-being of our stinger friends, we, as beekeepers, feel like it’s our mission in life to take care of them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes, things happen that change the way we do things. One of these things is when we need to move our hives, and it can be very difficult if we don’t take our time to learn and get prepared.

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

Recent Posts