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I moved a beehive 3.6 km- and some bees came back!

Ok- I know the rule is 3 miles- so when I moved 2 hives this morning 3.6km I knew there was a theoretical chance bees would return. However I was skeptical. In any case I put out a nuc box with a single frame in it with a bit of honey just in case. I moved the hives at sunrise. I got back home and no bees… about 11am I saw the first one come home and looking confused. Over the day more and more have come- now there are maybe 15. they are going in an out of the nuc. I’m hoping that as the sun sets they will go into the Nuc and cluster on the frame to keep warm? The plan is to then drive them up after dark and put them beside the hives. I hope that they will then exit the nuc and re-enter there home hives in the morning? Or maybe crawl over at night? Will they survive the night? It’s going to drop down to maybe 8c.

It’s kind of absurd to worry about 15 bees but nevertheless I will try and re-unite them with their colonies.

This interesting experience makes me wonder how many bees get lost when a hive is moved. Some made it back home- I wonder how many tried but didn’t make it? And what happens if you move it more than 3 miles? Do some get lost and you just never know? I am guessing yes.

It’s curious as although it’s only 3.6 km it is up a hill and a fair distance to figure out how to get home from.

I also wonder if this will keep happening for a few days…

Try sticking a whole lot of bushy leaves over the entrance when you leave them. They will reorientate. Take away the nuc and they should beg their way into the hive.


P.s. Their navigation really fascinates me.

I actually did put some pot plants right in front of the entrances- largely blocking them. But it seems not to have convinced everyone of the need to re-assess things… now there are easily 30 bees back

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Actually, out of a whole hive 30 bees is not significant. Shows the branches worked on the other several thousand…


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Well- all’s well that ends well. I just drove 7km round trip to deliver 25 bees to their queens and After dark they clustered in the lid to keep warm. One drone too. They seemed genuinely happy when I put them on the landing board- fanning their wings and vibrating.

Just hope they don’t come back tomorrow!

Some bees leave the hive before sunrise. I go to my feeding station before sunrise to refill feeders and there is a few bees already there. 25 bees is close to no bees. I like to lock the bees in the night before move. You could have marked a few with paint to see if they come back if you like to experiment. Personally I would have done nothing.

I was out 30 min before sunrise- and it was cold. I am pretty sure none were out yet. I’m also sure the bees that came during the day came back from the new site.

I’ve no doubt few people would bother about 25 bees! The irony is I killed many more than that at lunchtime inspecting a hive that had been abandoned and uninspected for 18 months. Two supers packed with honey and glued together with more honey in between. I’ve taken over management of the hive and had to dig in there. Amazing honey- deep amber/orange.

Hello Jack, I moved my 9 hives 60 metres in a line of sight from the original location and put lots of foliage at the entrances which I think made my bees orientate to the new location. About 1000 bees returned to a box of frames at the old location and they all went into the one box that night, there was no fighting so I guess they called a truce. The next day I made that box into a nuc with more bees, brood and stores and it has powered on with no more bees returning to the old site. So I regard that as a success. That should answer also some of your questions.
Your bees will survive a night in the cold without a problem, after all Jack, your cold is not as bad as a bees in an area of snow.
I would return them to the apiary, smoke a hive and shake the bees into the hive. Leaving them in a nuc I don’t think is the best way of handling it unless you want to make that into a split. I would put some foliage at the hive entrance to help them to orientate, it won’t affect the bees that already have done so.

Hi Jack, what happens is they orientate to the new location. It’s when they are out foraging, if they fly into familiar terrain, that’s when they forget the new location & go back to the old site.

It all depends how far the bees are foraging as to how far you need to move the hive so as to avoid bees returning to the old site.

Say for example the bees are foraging close by, 1k max. In that case, you’d still allow a margin of error of maybe 500m. Therefore you’d double that & move the hive 3k’s away.

If you do move a hive fairly close, and you think that some bees will return, simply set up a new nuc/split to place onto the old site for the returning bees to join. A great excuse to get a new colony making a new queen.


Hi Jeff- that’s kind of why I was skeptical that bees would return here from 3.6 km away. I figured they wouldn’t be foraging too far just now as there are trees all over the place in full blossom. I guessed the bees wouldn’t have to go more than a few hundred meters to have ample choices. But yesterday another 10- bees showed up. I do wonder how bees go about deciding where to forage when there are lots of choices.

the split idea is a good one- that would have worked perfectly. It’s definitely a good time to be making splits- the swarm I caught 3 weeks ago has totally filled out five frames- and completely covered them with capped brood. It’s interesting the capping looks different to what I normally see- the brood looks like capped honey. The bees haven’t capped each cell as such but seemed to have capped entire faces in one maneuver- you can’t see the individual caps. I had to look twice to confirm it wasn’t all capped honey. I’ll be transferring them to a bigger hive in a few days.

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Hi Jack, bees can’t see all the trees in blossom like we can. When they go to a new location, the scouts go out looking for nectar producing flowers. Then they come back & do the waggle dance. After a period of time, the majority of the foraging bees will be working the flowers that produce the best nectar. That’s because the bees won’t talk up the nectar they gather. If a bee is gathering average nectar, she’ll only do an average waggle. If she spots another bee advertising an above average nectar, she’ll stop going to the average nectar source in favor of the above average nectar source.

You have my scratching my head about the brood that is capped in one maneuver. You should be able to see each individual hexagon, if it’s brood.


“You have my scratching my head about the brood that is capped in one maneuver. You should be able to see each individual hexagon, if it’s brood.”

Well- i scratched my head too when I saw it- the surface of the capping looks a lot like wax capping when you can’t see the individual hexagons clearly. However it isn’t wax- it is the yellow brood capping. And it’s just about wall to wall: 5 frames heavily covered. Unfortunately I didn’t take a pic. I will have another look when I move them into a bigger hive. Very strong and docile colony- every frame just covered in bees- and all this capped brood about to emerge.

Wow, sounds impressive Jack. I’ve seen that yellow brood capping you’re talking about. It’s different I guess because it’s all new. You probably can see the hexagons, if you look closely.

maybe it has something to do with the fact that all the comb was built out so fast and is virgin comb. I guess the queen was laying in the comb even as the bees were finishing it off. I clearly see now how a very early swarm or split builds up SO much faster than ones caught in late spring or summer. Some summer swarms I caught last year hadn’t really built up by the end of autumn. I imagine all you winter splits are absolutely booming Jeff.

I think this swarm will likely be a very productive hive in just a month from now assuming we continue to have a good season. At the rate they are going they should fill out an 8 frame box in around 4 more weeks. One local beek said he was concerned there hasn’t been enough rain over winter for a good honey season… I’m hoping he is wrong. I’m kind of jealous of your endless summer climate: but happy that beetles don’t like our climate as much as yours. Swings and roundabouts.

Hi Jack, yes they are booming. You watch, they’ll start advertising stuff for hay fever on tv soon. It’s all that pollen around this time of year, combined with nectar that really helps the bees along.

There’s possibly other factors like heat & weather that prevents swarms building up during late spring/summer like they are now.

SHB traps etc. etc. are big business up my way. Something I don’t participate in.

If your bees are near residential areas, your bees still may do well for you. Honey from backyards is always nice.