Moving a Beehive

Sometimes you may want to move your bees to a different location - for example if you are moving house or rearranging the garden. The simple rule for moving bees is:


"You should move a beehive fewer than three feet or over three miles"


The reason for this is quite simple: Bees learn their local area by sight very accurately. If you move the hive over three feet, the flying bees will fly back to the original site, not find the hive and certainly die.

However, if you move the hive over three miles - the bees will not recognise any of the surrounding area. They will learn their new location. If you move the hive less than three miles - there is a chance that the bees will recognise their old flight area and attempt to return to their old hive position.


How To Move The Hive

The best time to move the hive is in winter because the bees are not flying. However, if you have to, you can move the bees in flying season and here are some simple rules:


  1. Wait till dusk when all the bees are in the colony.
  2. Block the entrance with your entrance block.
  3. Make sure that the lid and cover boards are secure.
  4. Move the hive to its new location - fewer than three feet or over three miles.
  5. Once in their new location, wait fifteen minutes for the bees to settle and then open the entrance block.
  6. Stuff some grass in the entrance to slow the bees exiting the hive. This will make them realise that there location has changed. The grass will wilt overtime and fall away from the entrance.


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Comments

Graeme, 24 October 2019

Recently I inspected by hive, during this the bees started attacking, and have continued to do so days later whenever I come near. Why would this be?


Steve, 2 August 2019

This is an old wive's tale and is no longer considered to be accurate by bee keepers. You CAN move them 3 miles, but you can also move them any distance necessary, with success, by ensuring you trigger the reorientation response in your bees. This can be done by keeping the bees confined within the hive for 72 hours, but this causes unnecessary stress, especially during hotter months. The preferred method among modern bee keepers is to place brush or branches directly in front of the hive entrance so departing foragers will realize something has changed and will go through an orientation flight the first time they depart the hive in the new location.


Sharon, 21 March 2019

There is a hive of wild honey bees in a nook in the eaves of a 9 storey listed mill where I work. They don't bother anyone. My concern is the death rate of these insects that come out about now and later in the year only to get stuck on the ground unable to get airborne again due to the cold + damp and are blindly crushed in their tens if not hundreds by people or vehicles within the mill complex. It would be a major bureaucratic undertaking to try and move them a minimum of 3 miles away. Short of placing placards around the area asking people not to tread on them (open their eyes and look very carefully where they are going), have you any other ideas as to what if anything can be done to stop the carnage?


Preston, 7 July 2016

I keep my bees in the old fenced in garden area near my pond. However I have to go through 3 cattle fences to get to them (which is pain when you have to carry frames to the extractor). So I would like to move them a little closer to my house, however there's a 45' crossing for the cows between the garden and my fenced yard. I don't want to move and leave them in the middle of the cattle crossing for obvious reasons. How should I tackle this?


Mullymore, 7 October 2014

Today I moved a nuc from a rather exposed spot (to which I had moved them in August to stop them being overwhelmed by wasps) to my apiary at home about 2 miles as the crow flies. I sealed anjd strapped the nuc just as dawn was breaking and moved them to their new location. I left them sealed up for about three hours. Then (with the sun shinning brightly) I opened the entrance. Checkng them later around lunch time there were lots of bees out flying very extravagant reorientation flights. I retreated as one took an unwelcomed interest in me. Towards evening it was all settled. Late afternoon for curiosity I checked to original site to find no evidence whatssoever of bees returning to their recent home location.

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