Keeping Honeybees Safe While Moving and Relocating Hives

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Although large numbers of honey bees are routinely transported for the purposes of pollination all over Northern America, a move can still be stressful for them. When you are relocating hives, it’s important to have everything planned in advance to minimize disruption to the bees. Whether you’re moving house, bringing home a new colony, or simply want to reposition your bees in cold weather, being well-prepared will help the move go smoothly.

Relocating Hives

As a rule of thumb, bees should be moved either less than three feet or at least three miles from their previous site. This is because, with a smaller move, foraging bees will just return to their former location. If you are moving bees more than three miles, make sure you choose a suitable vehicle for your needs, taking into account the number of hives you are moving and how easy it will be to get them in and out of the vehicle without too much disturbance. Strap down the hives securely, and add some cushioning to minimize the jostling of the hives during the journey. Any stop during the trip will cause further disruption to the bees, so, if you are travelling a long distance, make sure the vehicle is roadworthy and has plenty of fuel.

Perfect Timing

Bees will find the move stressful, so once you have prepared your vehicle and hives, you should get going as quickly as possible. If you’re using an elevated stand for your hive, make sure it is already in place at your destination so there is no delay in positioning the hives in their new location. Moving bees first thing in the morning or in the evening will ensure that none of the bees are out foraging. If you are leaving other hives behind, it may not be so vital to catch every last bee, as they will be able to settle with another colony. However, if you have just one hive, by waiting until it’s dark, you can be sure that all the stragglers are back in safely.

Keeping Cool

Moving at these cooler times of day will also prevent the hive from overheating. If you need to move your bees in the summer, bear in mind that in warm weather, a sealed hive full of stressed bees can get hot enough to melt the honeycomb. Using mesh travel screens to cover the hive will keep the bees securely inside but allow adequate ventilation to keep the hive cool. Have some water handy in your vehicle so you can spray a little into the hive for additional cooling. During colder times of the year, it’s equally important that the temperature should not be below 50° F when moving. This is because the bees will cluster together if they are cold. Then, when they are jostled on the journey, some may break away and die if they are unable to rejoin the group.

It will occasionally be necessary for you to move a hive, although any disruption to your bees should be kept to a minimum. By taking steps to prepare your vehicle, time your relocation well, and have everything in place at the other end, the move should go without a hitch, and your bees will quickly settle at their new location.

How to Transport Bees in a Car

Though a truck is the best means for transporting bees, it might not be at the disposal of every beekeeper. If that is the case, then transporting your bees in your car should never be a risky proposition. Nonetheless, things can turn out to be worse if this is not done the right way.

Preparing the Beehive

  • Protective gear – ensure you are well secured with protective gear such as a veil, gloves, and whole body bee suit.
  • Secure the hive – the beehive should be properly secured during the movement. You can use straps to keep the baseboard tight on the brood box. For long distances, ratchet straps are recommended.
  • Hive entrance and exits should be sealed – you can do this at night or early in the morning when all the bees are in the hive. You can use a ball of steel wool or a piece of mesh with the help of tape or staples. Check for any ventilation holes and have these sealed before you put the hive inside the car. You can use a tulle fabric for additional protection.

Transporting the Bees

  • Don’t put the bees in the trunk – they won’t get proper ventilation and temperatures will become unbearable. If the hive is well-secured then there is no need to worry about placing the hive on the back seat.
  • Drive alone and slowly – this is not a family trip therefore drive alone and slowly.
  • Properly secure the hive – this will keep the hive tightly in place and keep it from sliding or rolling around.
  • Stay calm – a few bees might find an exit and you might see a few of them flying around. If that happens, stay calm and do not panic. The majority of them will not come out thus stay calm and focus on driving.
  • Cool the bees – you can use a spray bottle with cool water to do this. Spraying the bees with plain water or a sugar-water mix will help cool them while in transit.


Moving Beehives at Night

As a beekeeper, you will be forced at some point to move a beehive, despite the fact that a chosen spot might be perfect for your bees. The skill to move the hive is, therefore, necessary since it not only ensures the colony is safeguarded during and after the move but also helps minimize losses on the part of the beekeeper. Proper planning is recommended unless it is an emergency situation. Nonetheless, moving beehives at night is recommended for beekeepers.

Reasons for Moving Beehives at Night

Among the top reasons to move beehives include:

  • Your neighbors are wary of your bees and you have no choice but to move the bees to another location.
  • You have had tremendous success in your beekeeping and it is time to split a hive or share some of your bees with an upcoming beekeeper.
  • You have been requested by an organic farmer to put some of your hives on their property.

Reasons for moving hives are diverse and if you need to, then you have to follow the recommended way of moving them.

Why Move Beehives at Night?

Beehives should be moved at night irrespective of how far they are relocating from the current hive. The night is the time when all the bees are home, including foragers that usually venture outside the hive during the day.

All beehive openings should be closed before moving bees to ensure no single bee gets out in the process. You can use duct tape while ensuring sufficient ventilation spots are provided for the bees. If any bees are found near the entrance then use a smoker to encourage them to move into the hive. A few puffs around the entrance should suffice.

Other materials to use to cover openings include mesh with the help of tape or staples. You can also use steel wool to cover the entrance. Remember to close the roof depending on your type of hive. With some hives, you may have to block the inner cover’s hole using some mesh.

Moving a Beehive in Winter

Wintertime is, without question, one of the most challenging periods for honeybees. The bees tend to stay indoors during this time and it might seem to be one of the best times for the beekeeper to move a beehive. Unfortunately, that is hugely discouraged unless you have no choice. Nonetheless, many beekeepers still move their beehives to new locations during winter. This is done perhaps to bring the bees to an area with more forage or provide the bees with a warmer location.

Why Winter Beehive Relocation?

There are many reasons for hive relocation during the winter season and that will depend on the prevailing conditions in the area.

  • Firstly, beekeepers in temperate climates tend to experience mild winters. They will therefore move their hives to locations where winter flowering flowers are abundant. This will afford the honeybee colony enough food and still allow the beekeeper to harvest winter, honey.
  • Secondly, in areas where daytime temperatures fall below 10°C or 50°F, the honeybees have to be moved to a warmer location otherwise the beekeeper risks losing the entire colony due to extreme cold.
  • Thirdly, some beekeepers will move beehives during winter as a way of preparing for spring nectar flows. The fact that bees cluster within the hive during winter makes it possible to move the bees during the daytime, unlike summer when this has to be done at night.
  • Finally, in regions with extreme winter, beekeepers have to move their beehives indoors to avoid exposing the bees to extremely low temperatures and wind-chill conditions.


Transporting bees in a car should never be intimidating even if the colony is an aggressive one. Ensure the hive is tightly secured and proper ventilation is provided. Ensure they stay cool and avoid long stays in case you have to stop while in transit.

Moving beehives at night is hugely recommended. You can do it alone if moving the hive to a short distance across the yard. If the hive is heavy then you can use a platform with help from your neighbor. You might also need a truck or trailer if relocating to a new property.

You can move a beehive in winter but with consideration of the prevailing weather. If your location experiences cold throughout the winter season then move the hive for shorter distances during daytime. If the area is a temperate zone with mild winter conditions then it is best to move the bees at night, 6 feet for short distances, 2 miles for long distances, and the hive entrance orientation and hive elevation should be maintained.

About Michael Simmonds

Michael Simmonds is an American beekeeper with more than two decades of experience in beekeeping. His journey with bees began in his youth, sparking a lifelong passion that led him to start his own apiary at the tender age of 15. Throughout the years, Simmonds has refined his beekeeping skills and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge concerning honeybee biology and behavior. Simmonds' early exposure to beekeeping ignited a fascination with these pollinators, influencing his decision to establish BeeKeepClub in 2016. The website was created with the aim to serve as the ultimate resource for beginners interested in beekeeping. Under Simmonds' guidance, BeeKeepClub provides comprehensive information to novices, including the basics of beekeeping, the different types of bees and hives, the selection of hive locations, and the necessary beekeeping equipment. In addition, the site offers detailed reviews of beekeeping tools to help enthusiasts make informed decisions and get the best value for their investment​​. His contributions to the beekeeping community through BeeKeepClub are substantial, offering both educational content and practical advice. The website covers a wide array of topics, from starting an apiary to harvesting honey, all reflecting Simmonds' extensive experience and passion for the field. Simmonds’ approach is hands-on and educational, focusing on the importance of understanding bees and the environment in which they thrive. His work not only guides beginners through their beekeeping journey but also reflects a commitment to the well-being of bees. Michael Simmonds has dedicated a significant part of his life to bees and beekeeping, and through BeeKeepClub, he has made this knowledge accessible to a broader audience. His work undoubtedly embodies a blend of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the realm of beekeeping.
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Trevor Hall
Trevor Hall
4 years ago

My brother has a lot of bees on his property and even though he loves bees, he wants to keep his kids safe. I think it’s really important that we find a way to relocate them with the help of some professionals. It’s really nice that you explained how if it gets too hot while transportation the bees can be killed and the honeycomb ruined.

Ivy Baker
Ivy Baker
4 years ago

It is good to know that you can relocate beehives. I have several hives around my yard. I want to get them removed but not destroyed. So, it is good to know that I will need to get them relocated at least 3 miles away from my house. It might be smart to get a professional to do that for me.

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