The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Classroom

The Classroom – June 2016

- June 1, 2016 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

Q Moving a Colony

Thank you for all your wonderful advice which I have enjoyed and benefited from over the years. One of our club members wants to move a single hive across his property. I was thinking of offering him the following advice:

If the rule-of-thumb is that you move your hive three feet or three miles, how do you move it a hundred feet? Bees navigate by recognizing landmarks (among other methods) and when they swarm they do manage to make the new location their home. Could we convince them they had swarmed to the new location, giving them some good (temporary) landmarks in their new location?

The nurse bees stay with the brood and when they, in turn, become foragers, they will go to their new location as home. The current foragers will return to their old location and, seeing that they are lost, will cluster with some making comb. If we give them their queen back (caged and set on a branch or even a frame near the old location), the bees should, indeed, be a swarm. (I wouldn’t want to give them a super or they might think they were back home.) It’s unlikely they’ll move off without their queen. I have seen them decide to go, move away to another tree, and then realize that their caged queen is not with them and go back again. So, now we have a swarm with a queen and a colony in a different location without a queen. The colony will panic and immediately start making a new queen or two (or more.).

In a couple of days we could dump our new swarm in a super on top of the original colony (in the new location) with a top entrance facing in the opposite direction and with newspaper in-between the two supers so the bees won’t fight.  After a week, all the young larvae would be beyond the stage where they could be made to become queens so we could carefully remove all queen cells, then leave our queen in her cage for a couple more days to allow her pheromones to circulate within the reunited colony before releasing her.

No doubt some of the workers would still get disoriented, go to the old location and cluster, but one could keep dumping them back and eventually the stragglers would die of old age (in a couple of weeks.)

Is this advice sound? I have not tried it myself. Is there a better method? A friend of his says, “Put it on a little wagon and move it a few feet every day.”

 Robin Theron,
BASC (Beekeepers Association of Southern California)


First, thank you for the compliment. Second….Wow. That is an amazing plan. I have never heard it done that way. Honey bees are super biologically successful, until they aren’t. This would be a test for sure. But, some things are easier than others for both the beekeeper and the bees.

  1. Listen to your friend. It isn’t going to take that long really and the results are sure. I am all for the KISS principle.
  2. Can you, one night, close up the hive and move it 3 miles in the back of a truck or SUV? Then, move it a week later back to wherever you want it?
  3. Move the hive all at once and do you feel comfortable in sacrificing some of the foragers that are imprinted on that site. Honey bees don’t want to die, so they will regroup and find another colony to link up with and migrate back—most to the only colony around which is the one now only a 100 ft. away.
  4. See#3. Buy a queen put a nuc box with frames/foundation/comb or a hive body in the original location and by using new queen and displaced workers, start a new colony with the displaced workers and sell it to somebody 3 miles away.
  5. That is the best I can do on a Friday afternoon:)

Give it a try and let me know what happens.

Q Beeswax Candles and Negative Ions?

There is a lot of noise running around on the Internet that beeswax candles can actually purify the air; here is the claim:

“The air is noticeably purer, cleaner and fresher. Beeswax candles have a long been known for their air-purifying effects. Unlike soy and paraffin candles, 100% pure beeswax creates negative ions when burning, creating a similar effect as houseplants.”

I encourage my customers to purchase beeswax candles because they are long-burning, have a bright flame, burn down with practically no soot and emit a very pleasant fragrance of honey and beeswax when burning, so I would like to know if there is any truth in the above quote?

One more question: Most of my candles are sold at farmers markets. My customers do not want them packaged, so the candles endure the heat and sun. Eventually my candles either bleach out or turn darker. Any thoughts?



In addition to their religious symbolism, beeswax candles were also used in the Catholic Church for a very long time because when they burn, they do not produce the …