How to Move a Beehive to a New Location
At some time in your beekeeping journey, you will want to move one or more of your beehives. Knowing how to move a beehive to a new location is a valuable skill.
It is easy to understand that beehives are heavy and cumbersome to lift.
But the importance of proper beehive movement, goes way beyond the physical back-breaking considerations.
Honey bee hives can be moved with a minimum of disturbance to the bees. The process requires some thought and planning. Let’s explore the major factors involved in moving hives.
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Avoid Moving Beehives When Possible
The best advice I can give a new beekeeper is to choose the best hive location in the beginning. I explain all considerations for hive placement in my article – “Where to Put Your Beehive?”
However, situations change and beekeepers find themselves needing to move bees.
Beehives Are Heavy and Difficult to Move
Most beekeepers do not have access to heavy lifting equipment. I have moved production colonies by hand. This is not something you want to do alone. It’s a great time to enlist some strong friends as honey bee hives can get very heavy. Some beekeeping suppliers sell hive lifters that can be used by 2 people.
The Honey Bee Mind Map
Beekeepers know that honey bees navigate using the location of the sun. (They can do it even when it is cloudy? How cool is that?).
The magnetic fields of the earth play a role in bee navigation. And now, we are learning that bees use landmarks to form “mind maps”.
The simple fact is that healthy bees known where the hive is. Fascinating! But there is a down-side to the amazing navigation skills of the honey bee.
If the beekeeper moves the hive more than 3 feet (approx.), some of the bees have trouble finding the hive.
Personally, I have been able to move a hive 4-5 feet with little trouble( with no other hives nearby.) I suspect they smell their home.
But moving a beehive. even a short distance can cause bee confusion and drifting of bees to other nearby colonies. Bee may become “lost” and keep returning to the old hive location.
Anytime that I move a colony of bees, I place some small tree limbs or branches in front of the hive for a few days. Bees leaving the hive notice the change and re-orient. This has worked very well for me for short moves.
How to Move a Beehive a Short Distance
If you need to move your beehive a short distance, you should have few problems. A couple of feet to the left, right, back or forward is not a big deal.
You can also use this technique when you need to move a farther distance away. You need to move a beehive 50 ft away? Move it in small increments (2 ft at a time) once a week until you reach your destination.
I had a beekeeping friend who did this by placing his hive on a child’s play wagon. Each week he pulled the hive a little farther along it destination. It looked funny but it worked!
If you do not wish to implement the “wagon plan”, it is best to relocate the colony in 2 steps. Move it more than 2 miles away for a few weeks and then bring it back to the desired location. This forces the honey bee “mind map” to reset.
Can You Close Up a Hive?
Some beekeepers favor closing up the hive for a couple of day when moving the hive. They feel this allows them to it more than 3 feet but less than 2-3 miles. I do not doubt that this method can work. However, I am not a proponent of closing up hives. I think it stress the bees and its just not my way.
How to Move a Beehive A Long Distance
Upon occasion, you may desire to move your hive several miles (or more) away. This can be successfully achieved with the following steps.
1. Plan to move the beehive at night. The foragers are back inside the colony at night. You will not be losing bees that are out in the field. Bees don’t generally fly at night. But don’t let your beekeeping friend “goad you” into being the one holding the flashlight.
2. Disturbed bees will crawl out of the front of the hive and sting. Close up the front of the beehive with screen wire or some type of breathable material. Especially during summer, honey bees can overheat inside the colony-even at night. You do not want to arrive at the new location with a box of dead bees.
3. Bees use propolis to plug cracks in the hive. This causes the boxes to stick together. Propolis is often a problem for beekeepers during hive inspections. But before moving a hive, you should secure the hive with some type of strapping. Don’t depend on propolis holding it together.
4. Lift the secured box into the back of a truck or car and travel to the new (or temporary location). Be gentle with the bees. Unload the hive and set it on a hive stand or similar base. Gently remove the entrance closure (screen etc) and walk away.
5. When the bees emerge the next morning, they recognize a location change. Flying around the beehive before foraging helps them form a new mind map. Leave the bee alone for a few days to adjust and calm down.
What to Do If You Cant Move a Beehive During The Night?
If it is not possible to move the beehive during dark hours, close up the hive after sunset. Wait as late as possible to avoid leaving field bees stranded.
The hive should be moved to the new location very early the next morning to avoid over-heating.
Open the entrance and step back – those bees will be ready to great the day!
Can You Move a Beehive In Winter?
Absolutely! Winter is not a bad time to move a colony. On cold days, the bees are clustered inside. I give the same recommendations for winter movement. Close the entrance and strap the hive before moving.
I will add one more caution if you want to move a beehive in Winter. Be gentle. Do not handle the hive roughly just because you think the bees wont respond. Rough handling can cause the cluster to break apart resulting in bee deaths. Perhaps, even your queen !
Giving proper consideration to hive placement is the best apiary management plan. But when the occasion arises and you must move your honey bees, it can be done. With proper timing and planning, you can relocate your beehive to a new location.
Now your bees can “be styling” in their new location and making lots of honey for you.