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I made a big mistake moving beehives- 😢


This morning I moved two beehives from my house to an an apiary in the hills about 35 minutes drive away. It was a hot day today.

Last night after all the bees were in I closed the front entrances using flyscreen mesh. The hives both have ventilation holes in the lids. I thought that would be fine… I was very wrong …

When I arrived at the location and got the hives on to the stands I cracked them open, and to my horror dark damp looking bees fell out of the entrance onto the ground. One hive was decimated- the other hive was absolutely fine.

The damaged hive was a lot stronger with many more bees in it - more than I had thought were in there - and it must’ve just gotten too crowded and the carbon dioxide and heat must’ve killed them. It was horrifying. I estimate that about 70% of the bees died, the queen is almost certainly dead, and I don’t know but I am a assuming that the brood and eggs etc. will probably be dead too?

I was at a complete loss of what to do. I rang a few beekeepers and they suggested that I merge the two hives using newspaper putting the damaged one on top of the good one. I had already contemplated the same… I would have done this but there were so many bees on the ground half dead crawling around, if I put that hive on top of the other and it had no entrance of its own, it seemed like they wouldn’t be able to get back in. In the end I left it as is. I got out all of the dead bees, cleaned the inside of the hive, put the frames back in, left the lid off for quite a while and quite a few bees went back in. I misted water all around to cool the bees and give them a drink. Then I put the lid on and left for the day.

I have no idea if the survivors will be able to manage the combs and brood and eggs and dealing with the bodies and damage etc. thankfully we don’t seem to have Beetles… I imagine the bees might not be up to caring for the hive and that the stronger hive beside them will end up robbing them out completely. My only hope is that the surviving bees somehow are able to beg their way into the good colony? I know this may be unlikely…

my plan is to go back in a few days and see what I can see and take things from there. I feel like such an idiot, it was such a healthy strong colony yesterday and today it’s been devastated. I’ve definitely learned a big lesson. I thought I would be OK with the top ventilation and using mesh to cover the entrance and moving them first thing in the morning. In hindsight I should’ve put an extra box on first, or moved them during the night, or waited until cooler weather.

Does anyone know if all the brood would definitely be dead or not? Given that 80% of the bees died I’m just assuming that the brood must’ve overheated and cooked - I saw a whole frame of fresh eggs that still looked fine but I just guessed they would all be dead?

Moving Hives with Supers...suggestions please!

That’s horrible! Hope they bounce back post-haste.


Oh Jack, what a hard lesson!
I think moving in the night and opening up for morning would have been the thing to do.
By sharing your experience, you likely prevent others on the forum to do same.
Hope the colony congregates to save the brood and maybe even make a new queen. Good luck mate!


I just feel so bad for the poor bees. I can’t undo it now - but I definitely learned a lesson I won’t forget. I thought I’d done everything right but I was out of my depth. Hindsight is 20/20- and I clearly see the various signs that I should have heeded telling me that colony was big and needed more space. I was all set to add it’s super after the move. I should have added it two weeks ago.


Hi Jack
Rotten. Your story has me wondering about unripe nectar possibly splashing over the bees in transit. A commercial keeper here told me how he lost hives last year moving them out of the leatherwood forests when unripe honey left the combs on bouncy roads and killed some of his hives.


Hm- I think that may well have contributed as there was nectar splashed onto the hive floor and walls. I actually rinsed our the box with water because it was so sticky… the road wasn’t particularly bumpy- all bitumen- but there were a few bumps along the way and my cars suspension isn’t that great…

I think I’m going to make some screened transport lids for future hive moving.

I had bad luck and planning in that it was a unusually warm night last night and hot first thing in the morning.


The bloke here was gutted. Commercial keeper of enormous experience for decades both here and in the UK… From memory it was something to do with the bees bringing in heaps of nectar and it not having time to ripen before he moved them out for harvesting. Fresh nectar runs freely from the frames if you tilt them, in my experience, and I guess the heat would make it runnier. I wonder if you have your queen?


At a guess the odds the queen survived would be 10 to 1.:slightly_frowning_face: I would be amazed if she did. There was half a bucket of dead bees… My hope is that some brood and eggs lived- my concern is there won’t be sufficient nurses to care for them. There was a lot of fully capped brood- hopefully some survived and will emerge imminently.

If I have to I have two nucs that I can use to rebuild that colony.

It makes me wonder: does capped brood ‘breathe’? Or is the capping airtight?


I’m guessing the nectar may have fermented and released perhaps co2?
I had a colony suffer a big loss last summer, possibly starvation. 80% or so loss but the queen survived, I was surprised. And gutted. Different scenario I know, but queens aren’t runts.
On the bright side you got a few swarms this spring so easy come easy go. There’s always a bright side mate,
Live and learn.


Cheers- again funny you said that as I could smell that some nectar had fermented- I was very surprised as the hive was only closed late in the evening and moved first thing. I didn’t think the nectar could ferment so quickly.

Yes- this colony was one of the better swarms I got back in spring. I do console myself that I saved at least some of those swarms from certain death. In all I caught 10 and arranged for another 10 or so to be saved by other beekeepers- so all in all I’d like to think I’ve been more help than harm.


It sounds like they overheated. I try to move at night when it’s cool if it’s summer and I put them on screened bottoms and sometimes I put screens on top as well. When bees overheat they regurgitate honey on themselves to cool off and they die in a sticky mess.


I really wonder why you have so many swarms in your area. Do you think they are from unmanaged or rather from feral hives?


That’s terrible! Could make for a macabre horror movie.


It IS a nightmare. (addition characters to fill it out to 20 characters)


Oh no so bad for you and the bees. :disappointed_relieved:
I do what Michael does. Mesh on top and bottom no roof.


Thanks for sharing your lesson learned Jack. Good luck with your surviving bees too.


Hi Jack, I recently did a similar thing myself. I also felt like such an idiot. The brood for the most part doesn’t survive. I made myself a lid with a mesh roof in case I have a similar situation down the track.

It’s lucky you don’t have beetles, they would take full advantage of such a situation. As you pointed out.

If 30% of the bees do survive, you might be able to grow their numbers with brood from the other hive, plus make a new queen, if needed in the process.


Hi Jack,
You moved them in the morning… was it already high 20s?
Did you have them on a trailer or did you have them on the back of a ute or perhaps back of a station wagon?


Brood cappings are permeable to air.


Hi Dan, he closed them up the night before which was what I did with my penultimate bee disaster.

We close them up the night before so we don’t lose any bees. In reality, maybe we’re best to close them up in the morning & leave some behind.

In my case it wouldn’t have mattered if I left some behind because they would have entered the neighboring hive on return with honey & pollen.

I guess mistakes made = lessons learnt.

@Semaphore, Jack, we’re doers, we’re gunna make mistakes.