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Moving Hives

At some point in your beekeeping journey, moving a hive (or hives) will be necessary. Here are some tips to help make it a smooth – stress free event.

By: Chari Elam

Long distance move (beyond your property)

Prepare the location you are moving your bees to.

  • Move bees at night if possible. You can move bees in the daytime but know that you’ll lose some foragers.
  • Close off their entrance prior to moving.

-Smoke the bees back inside when closing off the entrance. Products such as vinyl corner bead work well – the bees can get ventilation and are secured. Staple it on with a hand stapler. They do not like this so be well suited.

  • Secure the bottom board to the bottom box, and top box to bottom box with hive staples.
  • Use a ratchet strap (not tension strap) to ratchet the entire hive together “tightly.” -Do not take this step lightly. The boxes need to be very secure in transporting to prevent the boxes from shifting.
  • Load using a helper or hive carrier

-A double deep box full of bees and resources can weigh 75 lbs. or more. Be prepared!

-When using a hive carrier use caution that the notch handles don’t slip out of the hive box it’s carrying.

  • When loading into a truck or on a trailer, face hive entrances to the rear or side if possible (avoiding direct wind blowing into the entrance).
  • Strap hives down to the vehicle transporting the bees.

-It’s ok to load bees side by side with no space between the sides of boxes.

-Take time to truly secure your bees on the transport vehicle.

  • Don’t delay getting your bees to their new location

-Your bees will be ready to get off and their entrances open so don’t delay this step.

-If transporting your bees for long distances in hot weather use caution for extended stops. Commercial beekeepers moving bees a long distance will install nets over their bees and water them down on prolonged stops to “cool” the hives. Small scale beekeepers can do the same or consider laying a wet blanket or sheet over the tops of the hives to cool them down if necessary.

  • Once you have arrived at the new location, unload your bees promptly.

-Remove the ratchet straps. You can leave the staples in the hive boxes for now

-Remember, your bees just made a trip, and they are not happy! -Open the hive entrance.

       -Wear your bee suits!! Again, they are NOT happy from the ride!

  • Consider feeding once they’ve settled. Unless it’s nectar flow – giving the bees some food will calm them and settle them quickly.

Short Distance Move

Follow the first 5 steps for moving a hive a long distance.

  • If you’re moving to the other side of your yard or property you can use a wagon, golf cart, or other means.

-This method will “jog” the bees more than a car/truck/trailer and they’ll not be happy about that so act accordingly.

  • If you want to move your bees only “feet” from their original location –

-You can place them on a wagon or another “wheeled” device and move them just a foot or so a day with the entrance facing the same direction.

-If you need to reorient the direction the entrance is facing, do so gradually by turning the box just a few inches a day until the direction desired is achieved.

  • If you have to move your bees “today” and don’t have time to move them a short move each day –

-Move the hive to its new location in the yard and place an “object” at the old location such as a brick or piece of wood.

        -This will give the bees something to land on.

        -Each afternoon for several days, pick up the “object” and take it to the moved hive and shake the bees off at the entrance. They eventually get the point.

-Also - Place an “obstruction” like a branch standing up about a foot in front of the hive entrance to create an obstacle at the entrance.

-This will force the bees to “reorient” themselves and help them adapt to their new location - Plus prevent them from returning to their old one. Remove the obstruction after a week.

Moving bees isn’t hard – BUT it does take forethought. Take it slow, think through each step, wear protective gear (even for sweet bees), therefore minimizing any issues.


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