Here are the key points on how to move a beehive:
- Night and dusk are ideal times due to the lower temperatures
- Cover up entrances with soft foam and duct tape
- Allow 15 minutes for the bees to rest in the new location
- Use plants from their new area to get them acquainted to the smell
- Only move bees less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles
Best Time to Move a Beehive
Most experts advise that you move your beehives at night or dusk if your lighting isn’t sufficient. If there’s no urgency, then winter is the recommended season, but you can move them in other seasons if you follow the proper techniques.
In general, bees will tend to stay inside the beehive when it’s cold, making your job a bit easier. This is especially important when moving beehives for longer distances.
Take care not to move them when it’s freezing outside, though. Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit are when bees start to cluster. Any bumping when they’re on the move could break some bees from the cluster and cause them to die.
Equipment Needed to Move a Beehive
Safety comes first, so before you start, make sure that you’re wearing a proper suit and that you’re completely covered from head to toe. Check your coveralls and veil beforehand for any cuts or openings, so the bees have no way of reaching your skin. You’ll also need some equipment for securing and moving your beehive, such as the following:
- Soft foam pieces
- Gaffer tape or duct tape
- Hardware cloth
- Bee brush
- Ratchet straps
- Cling film or plastic wrap
- Bungee cord
Preparations for Moving Your Beehive
The first stage of moving a beehive is to secure the beehive and make sure you leave no bee behind. This takes patience and a keen eye to spot any foraging bees or uncovered openings in the beehive:
- Bees at home: Wait for all the bees to get inside the beehive, or gently use a bee brush to guide those extroverts home
- Seal exits: Cover up all the entrances with soft foam — this won’t harm the bees and will also allow some ventilation
- Duct tape: Secure the foam in place with duct tape
- Cloth: Staple hardware cloth across all openings for better ventilation, which could be essential for longer transports
- Keep boxes together: To secure the overlying boxes in the beehive, use a ratchet strap to keep them together
- Extra protection: Wrap cling film all around the beehive. However, this will heat the beehive and reduce ventilation, so carefully consider this for longer distances
Moving a Beehive Safely to a New Location
When moving a beehive for a short distance, you can simply carry it by hand or use a trolley to move the beehive around with ease. A pro tip for the trolley is to set a flat surface on the trolley so that the beehive is more stable.
How to Move a Beehive for a Long Distance
For longer distances, it can get a bit tricky:
- Secure: Use any type of strong rope or bungee cords to secure your beehive on the back of the truck
- Location: If you have one beehive, set it in a corner of the truck. For more than one, stack them close to each other
- Strap: Strap all the beehives securely in place before moving the vehicle
- Careful driving: Drive steadily to mitigate any risk of the beehives shaking
- Be aware: Watch out for any bumps or potholes to avoid any problems on the road
Rule of Thumb On Setting Your Moving Distance
You may have heard people say that beehives should only be moved fewer than 3 feet or more than 3 miles. But why? Bees are quite smart, so they learn their surroundings quickly. When moved to a new area, they’ll directly want to go back to their original nest area.
If you were to move your beehive 3 feet or less, the bees will come out, instinctively go to the old nest site, wonder why their home isn’t here anymore, then quickly figure out the new nest site and go back safely. Experts have concluded that 3 feet is a safe distance for bees to go back and forth without any danger.
On the other hand, when you move bees for 3 miles or more, they won’t be able to locate their old nest site. Unaware of any route to their previous home, the bees will start adapting to this new area as their new haven.
But why 3 miles? As proven by the wreath experiment of J. E. Eckert published in 1933, bees will fly for as long as they need in search of pollen or nectar. Yet, around the third or fourth mile, they’ll start to consume more energy than they’ll gain from the pollen. This means the change in hive weight will be negative.
Once you’ve reached your new destination, the first thing you should do is nothing. Simply leave the bees to rest for about 15 minutes.
Then, remove anything you’ve wrapped around the beehive but don’t open up the entrances just yet. Your bees are now quite riled up from the trip and are likely to burst out of the beehive dazed and confused due to their new surroundings.
Studies, including the one by Scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, have proven that bees use their sense of smell to identify locations. They use it to forage for pollen and return to their hives. This means that you can teach them their new home by using odor.
Grab some grass or a bunch of plants from the area, and hold them against the openings once you remove the cloth or foam. The bursting bees will be taken aback by this strong smell and will be inclined to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.
It may take around 10 minutes or so for the bees to start going inside the hive. Then you can rest the plants near the entrance overnight, but make sure they’re not blocking the bees’ path.
Remember to pick the right time when most bees are inside. Then secure all the holes with the right equipment. Tightly secure the overlying boxes together. Set them up on a trolley or truck and be on your way. Once your bees are in their new, strategic location, do nothing for 15 minutes to let them settle. Don’t forget to use the natural odor from the new location to get the bees accustomed to the area.