If you must move your bees there are times to do this, and definitely times to not do this.

First when to NOT move bees. This one is pretty easy, but not always obvious you should not move bees in the day during good weather. Seems sort of counter-intiutive at first glance.The whole idea of moving bees (if you have to move them) is that it should be like our current US education motto “no child left behind”. That is true with moving bees. If you move a beehive while there are bees out foraging when they return if you have not moved them yet they will either be mad you are messing with their home, or they will be left behind. If you were to move the bees and were to look back later at where the hive used to be what you would find is a bunch of bees flying where their hive used to be, confused and now homeless. These bees would then either die eventually or if there is a hive close and they have honey in their stomach they may be allowed into that hive. The most likely outcome, though, is that they would be seen as intruders if they still had their home queen pheromones on them and a fight would ensue-bummer.

So when is the BEST time/situation to move the bees? The absolute ideal time for the bees and not the beekeeper is at night. This is when it is the coolest and there will be no bees out foraging so all the bees will be moved and no one left behind. You of course have to then deal with the fact that there is no light (not the best for the beekeeper). So the best compromise is during the early morning or early evening (while it’s still cool and fairly dark) so there will be no bees foraging yet.

The first thing to do is to cover up the entrance so if it does light up or warm up they will still be all in the hive. You can either use screen or painters plastic (the cheapest) which is taped down with either painter’s tape or masking tape. What I used to use is screen cut to fit (so it is reusable) and painters tape so it comes off quickly when they are moved over the hive entrance. This also allows for ventilation in the hive so it does not overheat. Another option is to purchase an expensive hive net (yet if you don’t move them much it is an expensive overkill). The option that I have recently decided is best since I do move hives and start splitting hives is to get an entrance cover made for either robbing or moving. I use this and hold it in place with bungee cords. It has the pros of being reusable, easy to set up, pretty fail-safe, and quick. All good things when moving hives. The last option is to simply cover the entrance in painters tape. The downside to this is that some bees may get stuck when they try and leave or investigate what is happening.

There are a couple of must do’s when moving a hive. Make sure that all of the holes are covered with tape so you don’t get any unexpected bees coming out. And be absolutely sure to strap down the hive tight so it can be moved easily and does not fall/break and cause an extremely bad situation with bees everywhere. What I like to use are adjustable ratcheting straps to keep everything tight and together. I use 1 strap per hive wrapped around the sides of the hive in the middle so it doesn’t tip front or back. I make sure the ratchet is on top so it is easy to get to and release when needed and this makes a nice handle to actually pick up the hive.

Hives strapped with ratchets on top for easy access.

Hives strapped with ratchets on top for easy access.

Once you have covered the entrance, taped all openings, ratcheted down the hive so it doesn’t come apart; you are ready to move your bees. I am so confident in this method that I usually load my hives right into the back of my car. This makes their trip less bumpy than using a trailer and also saves on gas (something I am committed to).

Some final tips and things to think about that make it easy to move is:

-cool weather is better than hot

-threatening rain will keep the bees in the hive, so if it is after dawn you may still be able to move in this weather

-I only move if the hive is still just one deep (can be moved with hive top feeder, but make sure it is empty or near empty)

-any moves with the hive over 1 deep will take 2 people and becomes very heavy and clumsy and I do not recommend

-finally, if you must move a hive make sure to move them at least 1/2 mile away. If you plan on moving them just a short distance say 100 feet or so; it is best to do this in 10 foot increments as a lot of the foragers will just return to where the hive used to be and get confused.

-Once they have been moved let them settle down before you open the hive up and add a few new items (these can be just briefly) such as a few branches in the way of the opening so the bees move out of the hive and see something has changed with their home. This will cause them to reorient.

So if you must move a hive; the bees will make orientation flights when they are moved and be adjusted in a couple days to their new location.

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