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Plant potted Bees


So no sooner than I buy some bees, same day in fact, one of my mates calls me from a party telling me he has found a hive of bees for me at one of his mates house. So, as bee keeping seems to be a bit of an addiction, I said sure another hive would be great and a free one at that, I’ll have it, tee up a time and photos.
It turns out the hive is actually a ceramic pot…
No worries, as green as I am at bee keeping I’m going to give this a go. I’m planning on sliding plywood under the base and plugging the hole on top and transporting it home to my apiary this evening. I’d like to leave the colony in the pot for a bit as we are having a party tomorrow and have much work to do so transferring into one of my boxes will have to wait until next weekend if possible.
Ideas, recommendations or advice people?

I will have a week to plan and prepare for moving the colony into a box once here so advice regarding rehousing the colony would be appreciated too.


It depends on how long the bees have been there. If it’s only recent, you could have your new box ready with frames, make sure one frame has plenty of young brood in it. Dab a couple of drops of lemongrass in a couple of places, tip the pot upside down over the new box & let the bees go into the new hive. After a while, remove the pot & put the lid on. Place the outside the hive near the entrance.

If the bees have been there a while, you can fix the brood comb to empty frames & place them in the new box. Everything else is the same. Good luck with that Greg. cheers

That reminds me, I’ve got a recently established colony to pick up from a Telstra junction box.


@skeggley you can never have too much bee kit - buy some more it will be used soon enough LOL


Unfortunately Jeff as I’m just starting at bee keeping I don’t have any brood frames to spare, maybe in a couple of years, until then I’ll just wing it.

Yep I hear ya Valli, somehow I have 3 hives. I only wanted and started with one and the only one I don’t have a colony for is the flow hive which I got first…

On a side note, what spacing between the hives is recommended?


That is the $64,000 question LOL.

3 feet is recommended to stop wandering. Mine are spaced at that - having different coloured entrances can help but if you look at European Bee Haus modules there can be 20 hives stacked 3 and 4 high and up to 10 or more wide.

Some beeks have them next to each other but facing different directions. It comes down to your style of bee keeping and space.

btw - I started off with buying 1 full Flow hive now I have 2 nucs 1 each Lang and National, 4 Wooden hives, a Poly hive and a mating hive as well as 6 Cardboard nuc boxes and about 200 odd frames


Just grab a frame of brood from out of one of your hives & replace it with a fresh frame of foundation or even foundationless will do. That’s exactly what I do.

If the bees are established in the pot, you wont need the frame of brood. The frame of brood in the new box coupled with lemongrass oil is almost a guarantee the bees wont abscond on you.

Some of my hives are only an inch or two apart. You’ll only get bees drifting to neighboring hives during orientation flights. After their orientation flight, the bees are that accurate on their return flights that they even come back to the same position on the entrance they left from. I proved that for myself. You wont need different colored entrances to assist the bees.


Hi Jeff,

I am going to apologize for drifting the subject here, but I wanted to let you know that I got one of those stainless steel mini hive tools from Mann Lake:

Can’t wait to try it after your reports. Do you still like it?

Every time I read about plant pot bees, I think of those odd swarm traps like this one:

Looks just like a biodegradable plant pot to me!! :blush:



Hi Dawn, yes it’s fantastic, it’s the first one I grab. The beauty of it is the fact that it sits in the palm of my hand while I’m using my hand to do other things. As soon as I see a beetle, I’m instantly ready to squash it instead of reaching for my hive tool out of my pocket. Plus it’s still long enough to have the leverage to prize lids off & boxes apart.

I haven’t heard of any pot plant bees for a long time. As you know, they get into all sorts of places. One bloke phoned me up. He had bees moved in to the underside of the floor of his trailer boat. They were using the bung hole for an entrance.

It’s lousy weather here for beekeeping at the moment. I’m making a huge saucepan of Monsterio Delicio jam instead. take care, bye


I leave enough space to put the roof down one side and have a spare brood box the other.
My ideal situation would be to have a hive stand large enough for three hives and a bit spare with just the one hive in the middle.
Drifting of honeybees is not that important.
I think some experiments were done to show that if you have a line of hives close together with a prevailing wind across the entrances then the most downwind hive always had the most bees and gave you the most honey. It makes sense really as a fully laden bee flying against the wind is more likely to dive into the first box she sees.
So, if you have your hives in an exposed place it makes sense to arrange them in a higgledy piggledy order.
If you have a line of mating nucs. Then you have to be careful in spacing them and colour coding the entrances as queens returning from mating flights can end up in the wrong box.

That’s true. I have my entrances reduced for winter and when I turn the blocks to their wider summer configuration in spring the bees come and go from exactly the same place for quite a few weeks.


Could I put the pot on top of a box of foundation frames sealing it so they can only use the boxes entrance without using a frame of brood? Will the bees migrate to the lower chamber?


That might be a VERY interesting experiment! :slightly_smiling: I don’t know what would happen, but I predict it will be creative…

Bees usually will not abandon brood, and I assume that they have had long enough in that pot to have brood. My prediction is that they will extend the comb from the bottom of the pot and connect it to the frames of foundation. Then you will have a big creative, sticky mess! :blush:

Others may have different opinions, but if it were me, I would cut the comb out of the pot, and try to put as much as possible into frames, using elastic bands or fishing line to hold it in place. If it is fresh, that might work quite well, as it will be flexible and can be bent a bit to straighten it. I would put those frames into your lower brood box. It would be great to find the queen, but you may not and you may kill her with such an invasive approach. However, the remaining bees will make a new queen if you have eggs or very young larvae.

Will be interested to see what others say.



Yes Greg, that will work for sure, that would be a good way to go. Once the bees call the box & frames “home”, it will be safe to remove the pot in a week or so.

I was a bit slow getting around to getting the bees out of the junction box. Someone else beat me to it. My fault for not getting there a bit quicker.


LOL, so now you have at least 2 opinions! Please let us know what you do and what happened - I love to learn. If you can take photos, that would be great too.



Hi Dawn, he could put a queen excluder over the frames or even some thin wooden slats over them at right angles, to make separating easier in a weeks time. I’m thinking he could remove the pot similar to the top of a skep hive. With a little bit of smoke, he should be able to separate the comb, attaching the brood combs to empty frames & placing them in the bottom box.

@skeggley Greg, you wouldn’t need to have the box full of frames, only 3 or 4 directly under the pot. In a weeks time, as you attach the brood combs to empty frames, you could place them in the middle of the box, moving the new ones towards the outside. Sounds good.


Hi Jeff,

I really hope he tries your suggestions and shows us how it went - I love learning new things, and bees always keep me learning!



PS @skeggley, the only reason I’d use a frame of brood from another hive would be in the event the colony didn’t get started with their own brood. Either way, what your proposing will be a good idea. The trick is to get the bees to call the new box “home”. After a few days or a week to be sure, they will.


Thanks Dawn, I’ll get going, I’ll ttyl, bye


Ok pot of bees transferred home not without drama though. The pot was absolutely overflowing with bees. Made a bit of a mess of it but we’ll see what happens.
Put a board on the top of the box and cut a hole in it about 50mm and sat the pot on that. Comb fell out when I lifted it and I strapped it to some wired frames an put these in the box first. I’ll get some photos up after I recover from the 20+ stings I got for my troubles…:frowning:


Awww, big virtual hug sent your way! Would love to hear how it goes over time. Thanks for the update!


Hi & well done Greg, sorry to hear about all the stings. I look forward to seeing the photos. Welcome to beekeeping:) did you use plenty of smoke? or are the bees generally aggressive? Good luck with it, cheers:)