Friday, July 26, 2013

How to move a beehive.

If you've been paying attention, you know our original hive swarmed, that we caught said swarm in one of our bait traps, and that we now need to move that hive out of the bait trap and into a real bee hive.

Well, today (Friday, July 26th), we built our new hive. Unfortunately, it's not sealed (waterproofed) yet so we can't move our bees directly into their new hive. Instead, we took down our other bait hive which happened to be a standard Warre box with a floor board, lid, and some holes drilled in the side for an entrance. We then used bungees to attach it to the top of an 8 foot ladder right next to the tree where the old bait hive was. The idea is that the hive has moved less than 3 feet (more on that in a minute) so all the returning bees should be able to find their new home. Now that it's in a standard Warre box, however, when we decide on the new location, we can simply take the floor and roof off this box, plug up the side holes, and put it directly into our new Warre hive, complete will floor board, multiple boxes, quilt, and roof.

So what's with the three feet? Conventional wisdom says that when you move a beehive, it needs to be LESS THAN three feet or MORE THAN three miles. This is because when bees leave their hive, their pretty much on auto-pilot, they don't really pay attention. Why would they need to? They know where they live. They just go, do their thing, collect nectar and what not, and then head for home. The problem is when the head home they're on auto-pilot too. Just like you when you drive you, you don't really pay attention to what streets you're turning on. You know where you live. You know how to get home. You do it every day. Imagine, however, if you drive home (or where you thought home was) and your home wasn't there! This is what happens if you move a beehive, say a 100 yards. They come back to where the hive originally was and basically get lost and need to start looking/smelling for their new home. Which they may or may not find.

So what to do? You need to disorient the bees so they go, "Hey! Wait a minute. This is different. Where am I?" and really take a good look around before flying off for the day. One way to do this is to move them more than 3 miles. Another way to do this is to keep them cooped up inside the hive for at least 3 days (don't you love all the 3's?). Another way, described in the following link and video, is to cause disorientation by creating an obstacle (grass, leaves, et cetera) that the bees must navigate around as they leave their hive. When they get around the obstacle, they'll go "Wow. That wasn't normal," and take that good look around that we talked about before flying off.

Here's the link: How to move a hive.

And here's the video: How to move a hive any distance.

I think this third method will likely be what I do. I'm not going to move our bees 3 miles. I'm also not sure they really have enough stores built up (actually I'm pretty sure they don't) to last them 3 days. I think what I'll do is give them 2 days in their current Warre box. During that time I'll water proof the hive we built and have my dad pick out a location in the yard for our new hive. I'll come back after two days, and we'll set up the hive at it's new location, except we'll have the entrance blocked off so the bees can't get in and out. In the evening, when the bees are all home for the night. We'll staple a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth over the holes I drilled for a makeshift entrance. That way all the bees will be trapped inside the box. We'll move them over to the new hive we set up and leave them there over night. In the morning I'll have my dad unblock the main entrance to the new hive, put some branches in front of it, and we'll all pray the bees take their reorientation flights and make it home safely at the end of the day. Think it's a good plan? I sure hope so!

We took a few videos of this whole process. They're rather long (about 30 minutes total) so they're taking a while to render and upload. I'll try to get them up on the blog tomorrow.


  1. I have tried the branches thing and find it doesn't work too well (might be different for you) what I have found that seems to work is placing a stack of hive bodies right in front of the hive. It totally obstructs their flight path and forces them to approach from a different side (the side instead of the front) its also very very visible. Good Luck with whatever method you try!


    1. It seemed to work fine for us with the branches. There were a few stragglers that kept going back to the old location, but not many.