Can You Move Bee Colonies a Short Distance?

Moving bee colonies short distances can be a challenging task for beekeepers. Poorly executed moves can result in disoriented bees, colony stress, and decreased productivity.

Generally, beekeepers follow the "3 feet or 3 miles" rule. Moving a beehive less than three feet or more than three miles is acceptable, but distances in between may confuse and disorient the bees. This article will discuss the proper steps and precautions to take when moving bee colonies short distances.


Can You Move Bee Colonies a Short Distance?

Moving bee colonies short distances is possible and sometimes necessary, for example, moving your hives further away from your property lines for the safety of your neighbors. 

First, the beekeeper should suit up in proper protective gear. Next, strap up the beehive to prevent it from falling apart during the move. Close the entrance to the hive to prevent bees from leaving during the move, and provide proper ventilation to avoid overheating the colony.

Using hive-lifting devices or a dolly can make it easier to move the beehive safely. After moving the beehive to its new location, allow the bees to reorient themselves and adapt to their new surroundings. That could take a few days or weeks, but they will adjust.

Preparation Before Moving

This section will cover three critical preparatory steps: understanding bee behavior, considering timing and weather conditions, and gathering supplies and equipment.

Understanding Bee Behavior

When moving a beehive, Understand how bees navigate and return to their hive. Bees rely on landmarks and scents to find their way back to their colony. When a hive is moved less than three feet or more than two miles, the colony can track its location effectively. However, moving hives at intermediate distances can cause the bees to become disoriented and unable to return to their hive. One solution to this problem is to move the colonies to a distant apiary (three or more miles away) for about three weeks, then move them back to the desired location.

Timing and Weather Conditions

The best time to move a beehive is at night or early morning when bees are less active and not out foraging. Move them on a cool calm day. Make sure to check the weather forecast before planning a move to ensure the least amount of stress on the bee colony.

Supplies and Equipment

Here are the tools you’ll need for the move:

  • A smoker gently encourages lingering bees to move into the hive
  • Hive straps to secure the hive components and prevent accidental separation during transport
  • A bee suit and gloves for personal protection
  • A hive dolly, if available, to aid in moving heavy hives
  • Reorientation prompts, like foliage or a new landmark, to help bees adjust to the new location

Moving Day: How to Bee Colonies Short Distances

Securing the Hive

Before moving the hive, it is essential to seal the bees in. This prevents them from flying away or getting injured during the process. To do this, move when the bees are less active, such as early morning or dusk, and close the hive entrance with a ventilated closure or bee-proof screen. Strap the hive components together securely to ensure their stability during transportation.

Transportation Methods

When moving the hive a short distance, such as a few feet or yards, it is recommended to shift the hive slowly and carefully, a few feet every couple of days. This helps the bees adjust to their new location and reduces the risk of losing or harming them. If the move is further but still within a short distance, it may be necessary to close the hive and keep it closed for 48 to 72 hours before reopening it in the new location. Make sure to have help when moving the hive due to its weight and to ensure the safety of the bees and yourself.

Navigating the New Environment

Once the hive has been moved to its new location, you can cover the entrance with some branches to trigger the bees to orient themselves to the new location. Additionally, monitor the bees closely during the first few days after the move to ensure they are adapting well and are not experiencing any issues related to their relocation, such as confusion or aggression towards the residents of the new location.

Post-Moving Practices

After successfully moving a bee colony a short distance, ensure the new location is suitable for the bees and address any potential health issues.

Monitoring and Adjustments

Observe their flight patterns, behavior, and foraging activities. In the beginning, some foragers may wander back to the original location. Some beekeepers put a weak colony there to benefit from the added workforce. After a week or two, they will adjust to their new location.

Further adjustments may be necessary if the bees are struggling with the new location in terms of access to food or water. In these cases, provide additional resources, such as supplemental feed or a water source, while the bees adjust to their new surroundings.

Addressing Health Issues

Moving a bee colony can sometimes lead to health issues, such as an increased likelihood of pests or diseases. Check the hive regularly for signs of pests like mites, wax moths, or other invaders. If an infestation is detected, take prompt action to protect the hive and its inhabitants.

Beyond pests, monitor the bees for signs of illnesses or diseases. Keep an eye out for evidence of bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, as well as any significant changes in behavior. Promptly address any health concerns to keep your bees healthy.


Moving bee colonies short distances can be a challenging task for beekeepers. However, by understanding the behavior of bees and applying proper techniques, the bees will adjust to their new environment.

One effective method for moving bee colonies short distances is to shift the hive a few feet every few days. This gradual relocation prevents the loss of foraging bees and eases the transition for the colony. This method is suitable when there’s no urgency in moving the hives.

Remember, always prioritize the colony’s health and monitor their behavior throughout the moving process.

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