When I sited my hives, I was very careful to pick the best spot I could find on my property. As most beginners do, I made some mistakes. Not anything major, but my hives are just a little too close to a tree. This meant they get more shade than I like. I also I don’t like sitting my hives on concrete cinder blocks because it leaves a lot of surface area for bugs to climb into the hive, and the hollow centers seem to be a great nest for the small furry rodents my wife hates…
I built a new 2×4 stand to sit the hives on. Additionally I began to research into the how to move a beehive. In my beginning bee class we were told that a general rule was to move a hive either 2 feet or 2 miles.
The idea is that if you only move the hive two feet, bees returning at the end of the work day will return to their home, not find it, and then start making larger and larger circles until they find it. With the hive 2 feet away from its original location, the returning bees would be able to find it very quickly.
Why you can’t just move the hive
Have you ever moved to a new house, and after a long tiring day ended up driving on “auto-pilot” and found yourself almost at your old house? That’s the idea of the 2 miles portion. Bees will take an orientation flight when they leave the hive and circle around and take note of where they live. They don’t do this every time they leave, just when they first leave. If they haven’t had a orientation flight after a significant changes to the area around the hive (or the hive location) they can get lost. As far as major mover, the theory is (as I understand it) is that when you board them up in their hive and then drive around to the new location, they know they have been moved and reorient themselves.
Now the problem comes if you need to move the bees across your yard. Your yard is more than 2 feet, but is significantly less than 2 miles. I was taught was to move it incrementally, 2 feet every couple days. However, I have moved a lot, and each move was stressful. Each time I moved it costt me a lot more stress than I thought it would as I planned. No surprise that moving a hive does the same to bees.
When they get moved, it takes them a day or two to get back in the grove of honey production. If I moved them, got them all shook up, let them get in the grove, and then did it again, well lets just say, if I was them I would be ticked….
Basics of Moving a Beehive
I went to Michael Bush’s website Bush Bee and looked at his ideas for moving bee’s. Mr. Bush is well known for thinking outside the box and taking his knowledge of bee’s and using it to solve problems in somewhat unconventional manners. He has a method to allow you to move your bees 100 yards or less and in a single move to cut down on stress.
What You Need to Move a Beehive
- You need your hives
- Normal beekeeping gear (smoker, veil, etc)
- Second bottom board (or board big enough to set your hive on)
- Third bottom board (or board big enough to set your hive on)
- Second lid (or board big enough to cover your hive)
- Piece of cloth large enough to cover a hive box
- A stick or old branch that will disrupt the flight of the bees leaving the hive.
His method is simple, and I kind of followed it in my video.
Stack your hive in reverse order.
You place your second bottom board on the ground next you your hive and put the top box on the bottom board. Next take the next box off your hive and put in on the second bottom board. Repeat until you get to the bottom box on your hive.
Put the lid on the last box, and the second lid on the next reversed stack of hives.
Move the hive.
Pick up the bottom board, last box, and lid and move it in one piece to where ever you want to put your hive. Remove the lid and cover the hive with the cloth. This keeps the bees calmer, but allows you to remove it when you come back with your hands full of hive box.
Force them to re-orientate.
At this time you want to put your branch in front of the new hive. This will force the bees to move around the branch In doing this they will realize something has changed and take a new orientation flight.
Hopefully as they leave the hive and work their way around the branch and take off they should circle around the hive in larger circles as they see where they live. Since you only moved them 100 feet or so they are in their “neighborhood” it doesn’t take very long for them to orientate their mental map.
Because you have reversed your hive boxes next to your original hive, all you have to do now is take the top box, put the lid on it to keep the bees from flying up in your face, and walk it over to your new hive location, grab the cloth, and place the box on the hive. Replace the cloth and repeat until you’re down to the last box.
Leave a box for field bees.
Leave that last box for any returning field bees. It should have a landing board, but if not prop up an end with a stick. Come nighttime, block the entrance, and carry the box to the hive location, and put your branch at that boxes entrance.
DO NOT TRY TO PUT THIS BOX ON THE HIVE IN THE DARK.
I have opened a hive in the dark ONCE, and won’t do that again… They are very defensive in the dark, and if you open the hive up its pandora’s box and they will crawl all over you to pop you with their stingers. In the daytime you can replace this last box on the top of your hive.
Remove all equipment from the old location and watch for clustering of bees that didn’t read the memo about the move. If you get some field bees clustering, just put a hive box at the old location and repeat the last steps of the move. You shouldn’t have to do this more than once.
Moving them is not complicated, and the video below shows some of this a little clearer than my explanation, but take into account this is stressful to them, and it may hurt their production for a couple days.