Summer Management: Transporting Beehives

Transporting beehives is a common practice in the beekeeping world. Nectar flows occur during spring and summer, however, having it in the convenience of your backyard isn’t always the case. 

For hobby beekeepers, this may not be necessary. Most beekeeperss living in the suburbs or the city find the flow sufficient to maintain the colonies. There is even enough to produce honey for their needs. If current nectar or pollen flow is not enough, you can choose to plant flowering plants around the beehive. Otherwise, your other option is to relocate them!

Meanwhile, commercial beekeepers regularly practice migratory beekeeping. This type of beekeeping includes transporting beehives from one place to another to follow the most of the pollen and nectar flows. 

Tasks before transporting beehives

If you own 50 to 100 beehives, moving them from point A to point B poses a lot of challenges. In saying that, preparing to transport them must be done a few days prior to the move. For both the commercial and hobby beekeeper who are intending to move hives to a potential honey flow, a delay of a day or so can result in a part of the nectar yield not being collected. Careful planning and frequent monitoring of flower buds and plant health are necessary. Additionally, beekeepers who intend to shift hives should ensure that vehicles and trailers are in good condition. A breakdown could leave hives standing in the sun and this will do more damage to the bees than if they were left standing at night.

  1. Harvest any surplus honey from the supers to reduce hive weight. Be prepared to leave the bees enough honey stores, just in case the honey flow fails.
  2. If frames are loose, push them to one side of the box and wedge them firmly with a small wedge of wood. Frames bumping around during transport can easily squash bees and even worse, the queen.
  3. Ensure hive fasteners are in place to securely fasten together the bottom board, all boxes and the hive lid to prevent them from twisting and coming apart.
  4. Use masking tape, or similar, to block any holes and cracks in hive material that will permit bees to escape. During a shift many angry bees can escape from a hive even if they only emerge one at a time.
  5. Load the beehives when the bees have stopped flying out. After that, close the hives with the fixed entrance closure. If there is no fixed closure, use strips of foam rubber or folded insect screen pushed firmly into the entrance so that they do not become loose during transport.
  6. Secure the hives on the vehicle with approved restraints that follow the Australian standards. States and territories have this information available online. Please note that transporting an unsecured load is an offence! 

On the road to transporting beehives

Once the beehives are closed and loaded securely, get on your vehicle and start the engine. Do not stop the vehicle once on the road. The movement and vibration of the vehicle causes the bees to cluster together, preventing any activity. However, when the vibration stops, they break the cluster and start to ‘race’, which can cause overheating. If you do need to stop, keep the engine running to maintain the vibration to prevent the bees breaking their cluster. 

Unloading the beehives

After reaching the destination, it is recommended to park the vehicle under a shade. Unload the beehives and release the bees as soon as possible. Use a smoker to puff a bit of smoke when opening each entrance to keep the bees calm. 

Stand at the side of the hive as it is opened. Bees will come out with a rush if the colony is strong. Splash a cup of water on the front of the hive and over the released bees in hot weather or if bees seem distressed. This gives them an immediate supply of water and helps them to return to normal quickly. Before you leave the apiary, check that all hive entrances have been opened. 

Things to Consider

If you’re moving the beehives within a short distance, move the hive about one to two metres each day. This is so that bees returning from foraging will be able to find the hive in its new position. This method is ideal for relocating beehives within the backyard. The ideal time to do this is during the cooler months when the clustered bees are relatively inactive, but it may be done successfully at other times.

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