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Bees from new nuc drift to established hive?

My hive is about four weeks old. If all goes to plan I will be getting a second nuc this weekend and the new hive is going to be about three feet from the existing one.

I’ve been reading a lot on this but can’t find a definite answer. I painted both my hives white, and are identical. Will the bees from the new nuc drift to the old one?

I read that some beekeepers have hives stacked next to each other, but I assume these would be both established strong colonies.

I read that they will drift to the hive at the end if there are a row of hive. I read that they won’t. I read that I have to place them several meters apart. I read that I don’t have to. I read that I have to paint the hives with different shapes so bees can find their home…

I’m inclined to not worry too much about it, but any advice is gladly taken.

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I have four in a row about 10cn apart and they are fine. Once they orientate to their hive they are incredibly accurate. When the boys were young we used to move a hive 5cm sideways and watch the bees coming in and over shooting because the had left a hive there. They quickly caught on but it shows just how amazing their navigation is.



I have hives in rows to make it easier for me to work on them, the gap between each hive side by side can be as narrow as 10cm and up to a metre, some rows are a stand alone row of 10 hives or in a clump with about 1.5 metres between the rows. The spacing is set up for making it easy for me. All of my hives are painted white to aid in the hives being cool. The hives are all out in the open to the elements, sun, wind and rain.
You can have bee drift if you do a split and the older bees will go to the original hive location so when I make a split I position them side by side but neither sitting in the exact original position but both overlapping it close together. The other option is to take one of the splits more than 5 klm’s away for a week.
Guard bees are protecting the entrance of a hive so bee drift is soon sorted out by the bees. Even if a new split is placed close to established hives. Bees seem to be able to return to the hive they belong to even in a large apiary. But I never move a hive about in my apiary as that is really asking for trouble. When I go to my apiary the first thing I do is a walk around to get a feeling if something is not right and to get an idea of how each hive is going.


Hi Nuts, there is a lot of misinformation out there. The very first thing I learnt about bees is exactly what Rob was talking about. I took it one step further to satisfy my curiosity. I also notice this happen at other times while reducing an entrance. If you cover half the entrance with a piece of cardboard, you’ll notice a buildup of bees on the cardboard. This proves to me how accurately the bees orientate themselves to the entrance. They even come back to the precise spot of the entrance from which they left.

You will get drifting from one hive to the other while bees are doing orientation flights. It seems to happen each day early in the afternoon. With 2 hives side by side, it’s easy to understand how this can happen with a thousand or more bees from each hive orientating at the same time.


Yep I agree that there is a lot of contradictory information out there. Ask 10 beekeepers a question…
Although, like you, I’ve seen side by side and stacked hives, nuc colony’s included, I like to keep a comfortable distance between them and have them on 2 hive stands, which would fit 4 hives at a squeeze. This allows me to have a comfortable work area between the hives when inspecting and harvesting.
Sometimes it looks like the bees are flying from one hive to another but see no fighting so don’t really worry.
Once your colony’s are both in full sizes hives you can swap their positions to equalise their populations.

I guess what you are saying the spacing is more about it being for our comfort in working the hives and the bees will adapt.

I equalize my hives out differently in that I remove a frame or two of brood from an excessively strong hive and donate it to a weaker hive and so there is no fighting at the entrance of a bee demanding entry to a hive she doesn’t belong to but is in her GPS location position.
I’m surprised that recently I went to another bee keeper who had done splits a month ago with all the hives close together and he said there was no problems then but he switched hives about after an inspection to ‘balance out’ the hives and when he rang me he said it had been mayhem for the past 2 days. On getting all of the story when I got there we put the hives back in their original positions and within a couple of hours the chaos was over. The next day I went back and balanced out the hives by moving brood about, a good result.


That sounds a bit odd to me also. Skeggley may not have meant it the way it reads. I do the same, transfer brood. The only time I swap hive positions is when a colony is too weak to accept even one frame of brood. I did that about 10 days ago with a colony like that. They had one queen cell started which I broke down before adding another fresh frame of brood for them to start again after reinforcements joined them. Not long after that, another frame of brood. Then the other day I found a beautiful frame of sealed brood with at least a dozen bees emerging on each side. I added that one to the colony while thinking “beauty, I know which colony that one’s going into”. Or words to that effect.

The hive I moved away was a 4 frame colony with an older queen. I removed 2 brood frames, leaving it with only one on account of the reduced population. My observation hive has been empty for a while, so i cleaned it up & put the older queen with the one frame of brood & 1/2 the bees into that. The other half of the bees formed part of a split from multiple hives to be taken away. I need the observation hive for a talk I’m doing with Probus on the 14th.