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Moving Bees

94-1 rev.



Division of Plant Industry – Apiculture

8995 East Main Street

Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-3399





You will probably find it necessary to move your bee colonies if you keep bees for any length of time.


The reasons to move might be to relocate an apiary, to pollinate a specific crop or because you are establishing new apiaries. What ever the reason you should be aware of the importance to plan your move and observe some safety precautions. The following steps should be seriously considered when moving bees. 

  1. Plan your travel route in advance, avoiding extremely rough roads or areas where construction can cause extended travel delay. The smoother the ride the less disturbing it is for the bees.
  2. Know exactly how many bee colonies are being moved and your destination address.
  3. Contact your apiary inspector in advance for a colony inspection. A certificate of inspection signed by the state apiarist should be obtained before entering another state.
  4. If moving bees within Ohio make sure the new apiary is registered. If not under quarantine they can be moved without an inspection or permit.
  5. Prepare to cleat, staple or band each hive to hold hive bodies and parts together. Do this a day or so in advance of the move. Sometimes during hot weather the outer and inner covers can be replaced with a screened cover to improve ventilation.
  6. Plan to move bees after they have stopped foraging, about dusk or on a cool, rainy day as long as they are not flying.
  7. To close the hive entrance wire screening can be pushed into the entrance opening, prohibiting the bees from leaving and allowing easy removal once at your destination. This screen insertion should be done just before loading up the hives.
  8. Any other hive openings should be sealed or plugged; many times a sticky tape works well.
  9. Often large numbers of hives are moved with their entrances left open. However, a bee tight net screening is used to cover the entire truckload of hives.
  10.  Movement on the highway can also be conducted at night to reduce bee loss.
  11. Smokers should be filled with fuel and be producing a cool smoke.
  12. Use the smoker very liberally on each hive before loading. This will keep the bees under control. Also, smoke the hive entrances before screening the hives.
  13. Keep the smoker handy at all times and never hesitate to smoke the bees if they are coming out.
  14. Avoid using flashlights and turn vehicle headlights off. Engine vibration tends to calm the bees, so keep the motor running.
  15.  Always secure the hives by properly tying them down. A little extra time spent can avoid a major problem if the bee hives are upset.

Although beekeepers may have their own particular methods of moving colonies, the goal is to accomplish the move with a minimal amount of bee loss. Today anyone moving bees should be especially cautious, because of the introduction into Ohio of Varroa and Tracheal mites. It is important to recognize that increased mite distribution may occur if bee movement is poorly planned.


Prepared by: Gordon Rudloff
State Apiarist
Ohio Department of Agriculture