Bees coming back to old hive location

Hello all,

Last night I moved my smaller hive into my beeyard next to my other beehive. The distance of the move is 170 meteres exactly.

Now I know the 3ft - 3 mile rule, but I simply don’t have anywhere else to put them. Where I am we are expecting nearly two weeks worth of rainy weather, so I thought I’d attempt to move them since because of the rain they’d mostly be in the hive. I would also say moving the hive in increments would be very hard as the terrain between the hives is very muddy, hence the move to a sunnier and drier spot. Call me a bad keeper but I didn’t see much of an option.

I moved them last night and put some olive branches at the entrance. As forecast, we had a huge storm for the next few hours. Then this morning I awoke to a mildy sunny day! I check the hive and there was minimal activity compared to my other hive. This moved hive was much smaller, the 2 of the outher frames weren’t touched much.

At the old hive location I found this:

So I’m not really sure what to do. If these bees remain they will likely die in the rain. As for the hive itself I could possibly put in some extra brood frames to make up for lost numbers. The hive is around mid-strength and will likely need feeding soon.

That being said I did just get two nuc boxes in the post, I have seen I could possibly move them there and then move them back.

Any help or advice would be appreciated.

After getting the nucs, they are unassembled, so I can’t see about putting one in the old hive spot.

After checking again there are bees returning to the new spot which is a good sign. I think I may just lose a few bees which is a shame. I might give them 2 frames of brood from my other hive to boost their numbers a bit more.


What you found is to be expected. You could put a small split into a nuc box, so as to retrieve those bees, plus more that will return in the coming days.

Can you see yourself moving a nuc box in small increments?

Keep an eye on the hive you moved, because a lot of bees that return to the old site will leave the brood vulnerable to chilling of hive beetle damage. You might need to remove some of the brood to add to the new split.

I think that the strategy you adopted mainly works if you close the bees in for a period of around 3 days. Then use the branches etc.

Hey Jeff, thanks for your response.

I would try and move in smaller increments, but I don’t think it would be viable. 170 meters, and if we be generous and say I can move the hive 3 meters, that’s still moving the hive 50+ times. Which at that point would it be worth it for a few hundred bees.

I will admit the amount of bees at the old spot has grown, so they are going back there.

Going off your chilling comment, I looked at the hive in the new spot and it seems bees are returning there. With slightly windy weather at a rate 2-3 bees every 5 seconds., so it still seems active.

Unfortunatly I am expecting a storm soon and I hear the wind picking up. I might quickly put a box or something out there, but like I said my options are quite limited when it comes to moving.

I do feel horrible that some of them will perish, I don’t know if I have done a stupid thing or not. I will give them some frames to recooperate their numbers in the coming days. I am also planning on feeding them to get through this early spring rain.

I wasn’t aware of the fact I should’ve closed them for 3 days either.

Just wondering what I should do now!

Hi Tom, the field bees will return to the old site. However after recently reading up on the subject of orientation flights, it appears that nurse bees that do orientation flights don’t go all that far away. Therefore, based on that info, you should only lose the field bees, which will be replenished in the coming days.

You can write-off the field bees as long as you still have enough bees left inside to care for the brood.

I introduced some nurse bees to a weak colony today as a teaching exercise. I shook 2 brood frames worth of nurse bees onto the ground (minus the queen of course). Then after about 10 minutes, when all the flying bees were gone, I put the weak hive next to the edge of the nurse bees, who were actually walking towards a different direction. Almost instantly, the bees that were walking in the different direction turned around before heading straight for the entrance. The people were amazed at how quickly it happened. The bloke said “you’ve practically doubled the population of that weak hive”.

I realized that a lot of nurse bees that have done preliminary orientation flights will return to their original hive, however there were a lot of recently emerged bees in the mix, which I was targeting. Plus I added a frame of sealed with emerging bees as well. It had about 6 bees emerging on each side, at the time, so while that continues, the colony will only get stronger.

I am thinking of giving the moved hive some bees, I was going to give them a frame or two of capped brood as well as shake some nurse bees in like you mentioned. The stronger hive has heaps more bees and is probably ready to be supered/split in the next 2 weeks so it would actually benefit both hives.

However since it is a week of rain it will be the waiting game (like most of beekeeping!). I just gave the moved hive some sugar water to aid getting through this rain, the entrance is mostly blocked with an olive branch so it should aide with heating. I would give them the mentioned frames/bees now but the rain is practically on top of us so I had little time.

I looked over at the table and it seems the bees are leaving, perhaps to find a new location, but by the sound of the wind they won’t last much longer which is a shame. But in the end I should come with a stronger hive.

Using my knowledge I think the worst that could happen now is chilled brood like you mentioned, but during my last inspection they had around 5-6 (out of 8) frames with mostly bees, so I am confident that they have decent numbers (minus these field bees).

Thanks for you input, always helpful Jeff.

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