Moving a Colony

On occasion, you may need to move a honeybee
colony. The move may be small, such as to another
location in your apiary. Or it may cover a greater
distance, such as to another apiary location, perhaps
to take advantage of a particular nectar flow.


To Move a Colony a Short Distance

Two methods may be used. The simplest method
is to move the colony in small increments, about
one yard each day. If a colony is moved more than
a yard per day, returning foragers will be confused
and you will lose some of the field bees. The second
method involves removing the colony to a site several
miles away for several days to allow foraging bees to “forget” the old location. Then return the colony
to the new site in the original apiary where they will
“learn,” and become oriented to, the new location.

Secure the Colony before Moving

Colony secured with a locking strap.

Locking straps can be used to secure the
colony for moving. A strap should be placed around
an entire individual colony and tightened firmly.
Additional strapping to secure the colonies within
the transporting vehicle or trailer will be necessary to
prevent movement or shifting during the move. For
ease of use, strapping is the preferred method.
Stapling is another method of securing colonies
for transport. All the outside parts of a beehive are
stapled together with 2 3/4-inch hive staples. Drive
the staples in at the four corners, fastening each part
to the part above and below. This can be done during
the day in preparation for moving in the evening after
dark. Using staples, however, will damage hive bodies,
promote wood decay and agitate the bees during
Before moving a hive, remove the surplus supers
of honey down to the brood chamber(s) and one empty
super. Excess honey supers increase weight and make
strapping more difficult.

Ventilate the Bees for the Move

Entrance screen for moving bees.

Remove the inner cover and nail a screened
cooling board over the top to close and ventilate the
top of the hive. A cooling board is a plywood panel the
size of an inner cover with a large, centrally located,
screened window. An inner cover with the center hole
screened can be used for a short distance move. In
cool weather, a cooling board may not be necessary.
To screen the entrance for a short-distance move,
plastic window screen may be stapled across the
entrance. For longer distances, an entrance screen can
be made by constructing a frame with 11⁄2-inch by 1⁄2-
inch pieces of wood that will fit between the bottom
board cleats, against the front of the hive body to
cover the entrance. The bottom of the frame is made
with a 3/4-inch piece to cover without blocking the
entrance. The frame is covered with metal window
screen wire. The screened frame encloses a screened
porch on the front of the hive. Air will circulate
through the entrance and out the top to keep the bees
cool in transit.

When to Move a Colony

Moving at nighttime is best, because all the
field bees should be in the colony. A daytime move,
especially a long-distance one, would result in the loss
of foraging bees returning to the old location. The
bees will return to the hive at dusk or a little later.
Have everything in place except the entrance screen.
Attach the entrance screen with two wood screws
through the two end bars and load the colony for
moving to a new location.
Place the colony on a base at the new location.
Smoke the entrance and remove the screen. Place the
inner and outer covers on the hive.

Skinner, Parkman, Studer, and Williams. 2004. Beekeeping in Tennessee. University of Tennessee Extension PB1745. 43p.