(Last Updated On: 23/06/2020)

5 Easy Methods for Moving Beehives [the right way]

A Step By Step Video with Bruce White

Moving Beehives [the right way] is a skill you will need to know as a beekeeper. Over short or long distances, Bruce White guides us through 5 easy methods to move your beehives. And you will learn important techniques often forgotten including stopping frames from squashing bees, obstructing the entrance, and using a top screen to ensure proper ventilation.

Video Contents

Chapters include:

00:00 intro
00:37 examples of why beehives are moved
01:22 the critical reasons for ventilating beehives when moving
01:36 securing frames in place when moving
02:20 method 1: moving beehives over a short distance
02:59 move beehives a short distance in the daytime
03:14 moving beehives over larger distances approx. 10-20 metres
03:25 obstructing the beehive entrance to force re-orientation
03:59 ensure not to block the entrance when obstructing
04:49 keep the beehive strapped when moving
05:07 observations of bees at previous beehive location
06:02 note drifting bees
06:30 method 2: moving beehives with the entrance closed
07:06 use wood chocks to stop frames from moving beehives
07:40 when to shift a closed beehive
09:49 preparing beehive to load onto a vehicle
11:27 method 3: using a screen to ventilate a beehive when moving
11:48 shut bees in at night
12:55 use an Em-lock or a ratchet strap to firmly bind the beehive bees, floor & lid together
13:58 method 4: shifting beehives with an open entrance
15:51 method 5: wrap beehive in shade cloth
16:47 if needed use a red light

Video Transcript Captions

The following is a transcript from the above video, 5 Easy Methods for Moving Beehives [the right way] with Bruce White OAM


All beekeepers need to have some skills in migrating or shifting colonies. Because the need is bound to arise at some stage during your beekeeping career.

Examples Of Why Beehives Are Moved

There are many reasons why bees need to be moved. For example, if you’re getting renovations on your house you might have to shift a hive in your backyard only a short distance. Or you may wish to purchase a hive and you’ve got to go to where you’re purchasing the hive and bring it to your property so you need that skill. As you become a larger beekeeper often you decide that you want to shift bees to honey flows or pollen flows some distance away. And the methods you use depend on how far you’re going to move the hive and especially the time of the year.

The Critical Reasons For Ventilating Beehives When Moving

It’s really critical to understand bees incubate their brood at 34 degrees Celsius and too much heat kills bees. So if you don’t give bees enough ventilation when you shift them you’ll end up with dead hives.

Securing Frames In Place When Moving Beehives

It’s also important when you shift bees any distance that they are firmly held in place. It’s no good just putting the hives in the back of a box trailer. Because by the time you get there you’ll end up with just pulp because of the bouncing of the trailer. This will pulp the wax and the bees will all be smothered.

So we’re now going to go through all the different methods in in moving beehives in this video to upgrade your skill. And so you know how to move bees under different circumstances. The first one will be shifting bees over a short distance. For example in your backyard.

Method 1: Moving Beehives Over A Short Distance

This method demonstrates moving hives a short distance for example, if someone was doing some renovations in your yard and you had to move a short distance. It’s handy to have an assistant and I had an assistant here, curator of the illawarra bee garden, Ian Phillips to help me lift. The important thing was you would have noticed we kept our back straight as we lifted with our legs so we’re not going to cause any occupational health and safety hazards. Because bees can be quite heavy. You can also use a wheelbarrow with a fork on it to shift bees a short distance.

It’s important that you do this preferably in the day time and you shift about three meters from where the hive was originally so the bees can see where you shifted the colony to. If you’ve got to shift say 10, 15 or 20 meters you might have to do it over three or four moves. And you can do them on consecutive days.

Obstructing The Beehive Entrance To Force Re-Orientation

The other trick that’s used is to place some grass at the entrance of the colony. So I’m going to place some grass at the entrance of the colony now just like that. So because I’ve shifted the hive from there to here, there’s bees in here that are field bees that are depositing pollen or nectar when I picked it up and we shifted it. Those bees will come out and they’ll be distracted by the grass and they’ll re-orientate. If you don’t do that they’ll tend to go back straight to where they come from.

Ensure Not To Block The Entrance When Obstructing

Over a period of a few hours the bees that were three meters away will see the hive because it has only gone three metres and they’ll fly back to the original hive. By using grass you’re not blocking the entrance up or anything like that so there’s plenty of air in the colony. The bees will become disturbed for a few hours until they re-orientate so it’s wise not to go out where you’ve shifted it from for a few hours until they re-orientate. They quickly re-orientate, settle down and they’ll orientate to the new spot.

The next day if you want to go further, you know shift at another short distance you can’t pick it up and take it 20 meters. The bees need to be able to see the colony within a reasonably close distance from where they were before. Because they’ve got such precise GPS’s to find their colony.

Keep The Beehive Strapped When Moving

Keep the hive strapped so it won’t come to pieces and smoke the entrance when you pick it up and you’ll have no problem. It’s a simple thing to do but you need to be conscious that it’s they’re very heavy so you often need to get help or a wheelbarrow to shift at that short distance.

Observations Of Bees At Previous Beehive Location

So we’ve now moved three metres back from where I shifted the hive to with Ian and you’ll notice there’s a lot of bees flying here though the bees are out in the field when the hive was here and when they left they’ve come back to where they belong but there’s no hive. So that’s what all these bees flying around me are doing now. As I mentioned before, you need to wait a while. Don’t go out and do what I’m doing. But within a couple of hours they will have seen the new the hive, which was their original beehive. It’s not that far away and they’ll go and orientate to that hive. The ones that have come out because the grass was in the front will re-orientate to that spot straight away and won’t come back here. They’re usually not that aggressive because they’re coming back with food which is a good sign. That keeps them docile.

Drifting of Field Bees

In this case, you’ll notice there’s a hive in the background. That’s not always the case and it’ll need to be moved too if there’s some renovations. So the bees that were going into the hive where I’m standing some are drifting into that hive and these bees will drift into hives when they come back with food and be readily accepted so there won’t be any fighting. If that hive behind me wasn’t there they’d all go back to where the new location of the original beehive was.

Method 2: Moving Beehives With The Entrance Closed

So at times you know it can be an advantage to move hives with the entrance closed and that’s always done at night. But we’re doing this in the daytime just to show you what to do. You wait till all the bees stop flying at night you go to the hive and you block the entrance. Commercial beekeepers have proper shutters quite often but you can use some chux cloth and your hive tool to block the entrance up so no bees can escape. It’s important no bees get out of the colony.

Use Wood Chocks To Stop Frames From Moving Beehives

The other very important thing to do is to make sure that the frames are what we call chocked. If they’re not chocked it leads to a lot of problems because as you move along the road on a vehicle the frames bounce and shake about. And you will find that when you get there you’ll have a lot of dead bees and possibly a dead queen. So by placing a chock in the colony like that, it holds the frames in place.

When To Shift A Closed Beehive

You can only shift bees shut when the weather’s cold and there’s not a lot of bees in the colony. So in this colony there’s not a lot of bees so we’re able to move it in cold weather. So I’ve chocked the bottom frames and now I’m going to chock the frames in the super as well with just blocks of timber and you need several different sizes if you’ve got any number of hives because the frames can be spaced slightly differently.

So I’ve chocked these frames so they can’t possibly move around. The common mistake is not to chock the frames you get there and you’ve lost your queen. You then place the lid on the hive and do up the strap. Now this is all done at night so there’s no bees flying. And that’s important because you don’t want to leave any bees behind when you’re shifting this hive some distance away in winter or cold weather and when there’s not many bees in the hive.

Now it’s important to strap the beehive tight so the boxes and nothing moves. You need to put a fair bit of effort into pulling that back shut at night time that’s when you do it.

We’re now going to load this onto a vehicle. If it’s put in the back of a station wagon or something like that the suspension’s probably okay. But if you put it on a heavier vehicle or a one tonner, or a box trailer and you don’t tie it down you’re in serious trouble because of the bouncing.

Preparing Beehive To Load Onto A Vehicle

So we’ll now load this beehive onto the vehicle. The easiest way to do it is to push it sideways like that. You’ve got to make sure there’s no red back spiders or snakes or anything else under the box because that can happen. You then put your hand under the cleat and lift it and keep your back straight. Lift with your knees. Walk over then put it up that way and then you can push it across on the vehicle. Put the sides up. It’s very important to tie the hive on so it doesn’t bounce around. When you get to the site, you can take the hive straight off then put on the ground at night, smoke the entrance and open the hives up. But this can only be done in cold weather and when there’s not a lot of bees in all the boxes.

If you want to shift the beehive shut, you can sometimes add an empty box to the top which gives them more air space. But it’s very easy you know to smother hives (if you’re not careful) because they’ll overheat. Once they’re locked in the bees run around. You’re doing it at night so they’ve collected nectar during the day so there’s a lot of nectar that they haven’t ripened in the colony because they ripen honey overnight. Some beekeepers move bees with a closed entrance in the early every morning after the bees have ripened the nectar.

Method 3: Using A Screen To Ventilate A Beehive When Moving

This method involves using what we call a screen. It’s a rectangular frame with wire gauze on it. Not the plastic one because bees will chew through plastic mesh. So it has to be wire mesh.

Shut Bees In At Night

To use this method we’re going to shut the bees in at night. We’re then going to put a screen on it so you can see this hive’s reasonably strong. Just get the rest of the bees out of the lid in there. So then I put the screen on the hive like so and it completely seals off the top. You need a big area of screen otherwise bees will still smother and die if you use a small amount of mesh. For example, if I put mesh in the entrance, the bees don’t breathe through their mouth parts. They breathe through the side of their body. They’d rush to the entrance to try and get out completely block the air off. By having this bees run around so there’s always air getting in you need something like this to put on the top. When you put the em-lock hive fastener on or you can put the lid back somewhere like that so there’s air getting in here under here. And you can shift it that way. But it takes more space on a vehicle. Normally you’d use something like this.

Use An Em-lock Or A Ratchet Strap To Firmly Bind The Beehive Boxes, Floor & Lid Together

Pick the hive up, strap it put the strap over a piece of timber so it doesn’t damage the gauze. And tighten the strap.

As we saw in the previous part of this video, I’ve already chocked the frames so the frames can’t move about to squash any bees it’s done like that. You can then load it on to a vehicle. It’s shut in so the bees can’t get out. You’d rope it down if it’s on a vehicle with heavy springs. A station wagon something like that you can put in the back of a station wagon and away you go like that.

When you get to the site, smoke under the screen to chase the bees off it. Smoke the entrance and let the bees out. So that’s how you can shift strong hives in hot weather with a screen.

Method 4: Shifting Beehives With An Open Entrance

Another method that can be used to ship bees is open entrance. Probably 99% of commercial beekeepers always move hives open entrance. When you move open entrance you don’t shut the hive in. You just go to the hive say about an hour before dark, you puff the entrance and you pick the hive up and load it onto the vehicle. After chocking the frames so that they’re not loose you then load it onto a vehicle.

If there’s more than one beehive, you leave the vehicle stopped there until dark. Rope the hives down and then drive off. The bees that are out in the field will come back because they’ve got food. And they’ll go into any hive. The hives are healthy so there’s absolutely no problems and they won’t smother and that’s the most common method used.

If you’re a smaller beekeeper and you’re worried about hives smothering you can still move them with an open entrance in the back of a station wagon or vehicle provided you wrap them up in some type of shade cloth. Commercial beekeepers when they load hives open, often cover the whole load with shade cloth so bees can’t escape. So they have no problems with them escaping on the road. The critical thing is you don’t park you’re vehicle loaded with bees under street lights at night or stop to get fuel. Ensure you have enough fuel to go the distance.

This is a method just putting them on, tying them down and going. When you get to the site you wait till the next morning, that’s important. By waiting till the next morning the bees are flying off the vehicle and then you just load the beehives on the ground. The bees will drift into the hives and all be fine you don’t unload open entrance bees at night.

Method 5: Wrap Beehive in Shade Cloth

This is another method where you can move bees open. The entrance is not shut. I’ve loaded these much later of an afternoon than normal. I open the entrance. Moving when the bees have stopped flying. I put some sailing cloth or shade cloth on the ground, big enough to wrap around the whole hive. And I’ve tied it so it’s totally bee proof. The beehive has been strapped with an em-lock and the frames have been chocked so they don’t move around.

Once it’s dark or the bees have stopped flying, I can just pick this up, put it in the back of my station wagon and away I go. There’s plenty of air that gets around it. The bees can come out of the entrance. They get trapped in the shade cloth so there’s plenty of air still going through it. They’re not going to smother. If you don’t have a screen to go on the top, it’s another method you can use so your bees don’t smother. If you’ve got to go a reasonable distance in hot weather with strong hives.

If Needed Use A Red Light at Night

A red light is often handy. Bees can’t see red so if you want to see in the dark a bit when you’re doing this, a red light’s an advantage. You can use a tail light from a push bike with a battery in it or something like that.

This is another video in a of a number that we have produced for members of the illawarra beekeepers Association and all hobby beekeepers for the management of their colonies over a 12 month period.

See More Free Beekeeping Videos

We will be adding more beekeeping videos soon. And you can see other videos published already in the links below,