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When to move bees?


Hi there! I’m looking forward to receiving my very first hive from a bee keeper nearby. She told me she would want to wait for pleasant weather (we’re just below 0°C at the moment) and then show me what to do at the end of winter at the occasion, since I’m a beginner. What came to my mind now is the question, if it wasn’t better to move the bees as long as they are inactive? They have, of course, to change from the vendors box to my box, but the combs will stay in their frames and the bees will stay on the combs. If I do it in lovely warm weather, when the bees would want to fly out, isn’t there the risk of them becoming excited? Isn’t it better to avoid fligth weather as they would sit calmly on their combs? The distance will be far enough for the bees not to fly back to their old location, however.

I’m a member of a local bee keepers association and will ask my question there too, we’ll have a meeting on thursday, but I’d love to hear your opinions :slight_smile:


That’s the nub. They won’t sit calmly and if it is cold, brood will perish and some bees, not knowing where they are after they become airborne will become lost and die.
You can move bees in the cold if you are not taking the frames out.
Your nearby beekeeper is right.Patience.
Novices are keen to look in their hives in the winter for some reason. Don’t believe everything you see on youtube.


Great question!

It is ALWAYS better to do anything that involves opening a hive on a warmer, sunny, windless day. Just imagine lying in your bed, sleeping comfortably on a cold morning, nicely snuggled under your warm duvet. Suddenly, some mean person comes into the room and rips the duvet away… Would you be more unhappy about that on a cold day or a warm day? :wink:

Even transferring frames of bees is better done on a warm day. Bees hate cold drafts, they don’t mind warm sunshine. Plus, you are more likely to damage the brood (chillbrood, leading to chalkbrood) if you expose the frames to cold air.

So as Dee says, your local beekeeper is wise. Be patient, and you will have better results.



That is another interesting point. What do you mean “inactive”. I presume you mean they are not flying? However, they are very carefully clustered together in the middle of the hive, shivering and keeping the hive temperature way up around the queen - we are talking summer day outside temperatures within the hive cluster, even in midwinter. So they are NOT hibernating, they are wide awake and protecting their future! :smile:


Ok, that way it sounds very logical. That’s the problem about newbees, they imagine things different than they are. Thanks for enlightening me!

And yes, of course I’m impatient, as I wanted to start last year, but couldn’t get my hands on any bee. This year I’m soooooo dedicated to finally start! I will add little flow-hive-like windows in at least one brood box to be able to peek on my bees without damage. As one of the tutors in my beginner’s course said: New bee keepers watch their first hive to death… :sweat_smile:


And protect they do. 2 of my colonies, the black bees, are out on the landing board if I simply take out the inspection tray in winter. I hate to think what they would do if I took the top off.


You might find that disappointing. The thing of most interest in the brood box is the brood. The queen tends to lay brood in the centre frames of the box, so side and end windows will likely show you honey, a little pollen and some empty cells. I know you are enthusiastic, and you must do what you think works for you, but you may not get the answers you want (or need) from windows… :smile:


…that’s exactly what my apple-enthusiastic former coworker always said… :grin:
I see, this whole bee keeping thing will strain my poor nerves to their breaking point… :innocent:
For a newbee it’s surely a sight just to see little bees happily crawling about, although you are right, brood is the most important thing to watch. If I’m allowed to draw this comparison: I’m a rabbit breeder for some years now and of course inspecting nests and kits is what shows you the success of your efforts. But just standing there watching the rabbits nibble at their food, cuddling together, hopping around in joy and doing all those rabbit fancies is very relaxing and nice for me. These are the real delights in keeping rabbits for me. So I imagine just looking at the bees doing their busy bee business might be just as relaxing for my stressed out mind.


I’m with you there - I had Guinea Pigs and I even brought the pregnant mummy beside my bed so I could hear in the night if she was having them - she was soooo quite and when I looked at there in the morning she gave me a “what have I done” look and there were the most cute little piggies - Unlike Rabbits Guinea pigs are preconscious - the piggies are eyes open and practically self sufficient but they do feed from Mum as well - So first thing I did was call in my son, second was sex them - very important with piggies - females can get pregnant in the first weeks - but I would just sit watch and cuddle them


Here on the far eastern edge of Australia we are having a few rainy days. I have 8 frames of bees to move to a friend’s brand new Tung oiled flow hive but it won’t happen until this rain clears. I want to close up their hive on a rain free evening and move the bees bright and early next morning. I want to give my friend’s bees the best of all possible starts in their new home.

One problem is the beeline (!) between our properties is about 3.5km. This is a little close to homing distance for my liking. I plan to put an empty hive in the exact same place as the source hive and monitor it for a few days. If any of his new bees come back here then at least I will know of it.


Very smart to put an empty hive, or nuc box with frames to collect any stragglers. As you are a Michael Bush fan (like me), have you thought about using his idea of putting a big tree branch or large potted plant in front of the new hive entrance to force bees to fly through it and do orientation flights at the new site?
Here is the article, just in case:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesmoving.htm :smile:
I love that idea - very clever. Please let us know what happens with the new hive, I am fascinated.



If there is any geographical feature in between they will be OK. I’ve moved hives an even shorter distance and then I stuff the entrance with grass so it takes the bees a day to force their way out. Always works and never a returnee.


Thanks Dee. I’ll do that. The bees can certainly work past obstacles when they feel the need. In one of the trapouts I’m doing they dug their way through about 80mm of dirt. I guess a few hundred bees should be able to gnaw their way through a grass barrier.


Yes, indeed. People don’t realise that they are burrowing insects. They have mandibles as anybody who has been chewed by bees will confirm :slight_smile:


Hi Bob, if you have another hive next to the hive you are moving away, all you need to do is move the other hive closer to where the hive you are moving away used to sit. That hive will collect any returning bees as long as you do it while there’s plenty of nectar coming in.

Good luck with everything, cheers


Thanks for all the advice. It’s very useful. I’’ report back on how things turn out. I’m due to check out two of my trapouts on Friday. Here’s one of them.

This one is in the main street of Byron Bay. The entrance has been reduced to a one way bee valve for the past three weeks. Last Sunday I noticed the little devils had chewed through about three inches of scrunched up plastic bags and had found another way out and in. Not any more. A couple of extra plastic bags jammed in their escape hatch and they are back to the bee valve.

I’ve been encouraging the bees to use their new temporary home by adding foundation, drawn comb and brood each time I collect them. On Friday I will add a queen cell from a batch I started last week. According to what I’ve read, the emerging virgin queen will start “piping” and hopefully attract the colony queen from inside the tree. If it happens,well and good. If it doesn’t, the virgin queen will have a good chance of starting to lay.


Hiya mate, could you please explain your ‘bee valve’?


It’s a flyscreen cone with a 6mm hole in the pointy end. Bees easily crawl up the inside of the cone and out the hole but they find the going much more difficult in the opposite direction. I’ve made two so far. My first had a cone about 50mm dia by 50 mm long while the second was quite a bit bigger at 70mm dia by 70mm long. I fixed the second one into flyscreen to improve ventilation between the trap hive and the original colony in the tree.

This pic shows the base of the trapout. Two 8 frame bee boxes sit on top and the entrance is now a wedged out slot below the cover.

This is a close up of the screen and bee valve.


Totally ingenious! Love it. :smile:


Thanks Dawn but the bees outsmarted the trap for a few weeks so they are the really ingenious ones. Firstly they dug under and around the base so I screened off the underside as well. Then they chewed past the plastic bags sealing their original entrance. At the same time they chewed holes in the temporary polystyrene foam boxes I was using for the trap hive itself. I have collected a few bees but not as many as I hoped by this stage.

The colony in one form or another has occupied the tree for the past 30 years according the the plantation owner. For many of those years, the bees were gentle but they have recently become much more aggressive. I’ve noticed when I’m working them I need to use plenty of smoke to keep them from attacking. They are a very large, vigorous colony.

I’m due to take the 40minute drive to check this trapout on Friday but rain has put things on hold. Assuming the bees haven’t chewed around the barriers, I will be collecting any bees in the trap and closing the bee valve bypass. This bypass is behind the circular hole in the green painted front piece. It gets literally “plugged” by a disc of wood attached to the back of a board. The process takes about two minutes.