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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.
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 jostling of the hives during the journey. Any stop during the trip will cause further disruption to the bees, so, if you are traveling a long distance, make sure the vehicle is roadworthy and has plenty of fuel.
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.
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 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.