Outside with Chris: Moving Bees to Morehead in an SUV



Chris Erwin

The Ashland Beacon


   I have transported bees before a Nuc (nucleus colony) or a single depth of bees ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 bees; however, they are sealed and have very little chance of escaping.

   This story started when one of my neighbors told me he had an allergic reaction to a bee sting while working in his yard. I gave it a lot of thought; I have had these bees in town for about three years with no complaints. There were four hives that were busting with bees; three of the four had three boxes of bees on each colony which was about 70,000 in each hive, plus a swarm I had caught that had roughly 20,000 bees. Together that's 230,000 bees. Each of the large hives weighs about 60 pounds per box, so each hive came in at about 200 pounds. Of course, that was impossible to transport in one unit.

   In order to move these bees to my bee yard in Morehead, KY, I was going to need to come up with a plan. The first step was to break them down into single boxes. After doing some measurements, it looked like seven boxes were as many as I could transport at once. So the first step was to remove the super boxes (honey boxes), forcing all the bees into two boxes per hive. I know this could cause swarming, so I waited until the day before the move for this first step.

   I cleaned out the back of the SUV and put up a screen dividing the cargo section behind the back seat from the passenger section with thumbtacks; the thought of that was a little scary all on its own. I also made a screen to cover all the boxes once they were in the SUV.

   That Friday evening, my wife, Linda, and I started breaking down the hives blocking each entrance and adding top and bottom boards. This move put thousands of bees in the air, unhappy bees at that, and by the time we got them all in the truck, at least 20,000 bees were clustered on the outside of the boxes. We both had been stung over 15 times through our suits. Most of mine were on the top of my head where my suit was the thinnest. We covered the boxes with the screen, including all the bees on the outside of the boxes, and headed for Morehead to our cabin on Cave Run Lake.

   While we could see and hear the bees buzzing, only a couple made it to the front of the SUV, and I rolled down my window and let them escape.

   It was after dark when we got there, so we opened the back doors and left them in the car until the following day. We knew it was supposed to rain, so we started unloading the bees early.

   Our bee yard is over a hill so steep that it's not easy to walk down, especially carrying anything heavy, so we bought a steel wagon large enough to carry two boxes at a time. We loaded them on the wagon, lowered them down the hill using a rope, and unloaded them at the bottom of the hill. We had them numbered, to know what boxes went back together. We reconstructed them into the three boxes they had before the move.

   We went back this past weekend to see how they did after the move, and at least two of the three swarmed while we were there. Thousands of bees came out of the hives like a small storm spiraling through the trees and clustering in three different limbs at least 40 feet from the ground. It was impossible to catch them.

   In another week, we plan to go back and see if they still have queens or if we will need to replace them. I'm sure it will adversely affect the honey production, but we did manage to get them moved. 

   Chris Erwin is the founder and publisher of Kentucky Angling News, an online magazine available at www.kentuckyangling.com/magazine Chris can be reached by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..