Whether you are picking up a new package of bees or you need to move an existing hive somewhere else, it is possible to safely transport bees in a car over a long distance. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that bees in a car would be a formula for disaster. Without proper preparation for transport, moving a hive can be daunting. Luckily, you found this post and will be more than ready to make the move.
Here are our tips on how to safely transport bees over a long distance in a car.
- Close all holes. Before placing a hive in your vehicle, inspect your hive for any ventilation holes. Close them up to ensure that the bees won’t use these holes to escape while you’re driving. You will want to staple mesh or tulle fabric over ventilation holes to ensure air is still flowing in the hive. Do not just cover these holes with tape and restrict airflow.
- Close the entrance(s). Use entrance reducers to keep the entry of the hive smaller. Be sure to wait until sundown before blocking the entrance to ensure all of the forager bees have returned home for the night. Another option is to close the entrance in the early morning before the forager bees leave for the day. If you don’t have entrance reducers, you can use a piece of wood or staple hardware cloth over the entry holes.
- Use a smoker. Using a smoker will keep the bees calm. If you feel that your hive needs a smoker, puff a little smoke on them before sealing the hive for transport.
- Get lots of duct tape. Get high-quality duct tape to ensure that every entrance and hole is properly sealed. Add a few layers of duct tape on the seams of the hive to ensure the bees won’t find a small gap to squeeze through.
- Inspect crates when picking up purchased bees. If you are purchasing bees and are picking them up with your car, expect for the bees to come in a secure crate. Before placing the package in your car, be sure to inspect the crate carefully for any holes, gaps, or opportunities for bees to escape while you’re driving. It’s best to bring duct tape with you for pickup so you can cover the seams and ensure that the bees remain safely in their package.
- Get tulle fabric. Some beekeepers take an extra measure by purchasing tulle fabric and wrapping it around the packages. The layer of tool offers additional protection while allowing the bees to have proper airflow and ventilation. You can find tulle at your local fabric store. An alternative to wrapping tulle fabric around the package is putting the bee container in a large, mesh laundry bag.
- Wait for warm weather. If possible, consider only moving bees during the spring season. Bees are dormant during the colder months and are focusing their energy on protecting their queen and staying warm. If bees fall away from the cluster during transport, there is a chance that they won’t be able to return to their colony. As a result, they will freeze to death.
- Talk to your local beekeeping club. If you still have questions about transporting bees in your car, reach out to your local beekeeping club. You’ll find a group of experienced beekeepers who can assist you in the transport. With luck, you may find someone who can be there with you to prepare the hive.
- Get a truck. If you find yourself needing to transport an aggressive hive, the best course of action is to use a truck. A truck will not only allow for proper ventilation for the colony, but also creates a separation between you and the bees. If you don’t own a truck, you can ask a friend to borrow theirs or rent one.
- Don’t put the bees in your trunk. It’s tempting to want to put your bees in the trunk of your car because you’re creating a barrier between you and the hive. Trunks do not offer proper ventilation and can cause your bees to overheat. If you take the proper measures to seal a hive and close off all entries, then you don’t need to worry about the chances of bees flying out while you’re driving the car.
- Ventilation is the goal. Particularly during warm weather, keep your windows open when you’re driving with bees. Heat with no ventilation can overheat and kill bees. Blast your air conditioner and maintain a cool temperature inside of the car. Keeping the bees cool will also keep them calm during the drive.
- Drive slower. Even if you’re on the highway and can go up to 70 MPH, don’t feel the need to go that speed. If possible, drive slower to ensure your safety when transporting a hive.
- Drive alone. Transporting bees does not make for an ideal family road trip. If possible, minimize the number of people in the car when moving a colony. Other people, particularly those that aren’t beekeepers, may feel uncomfortable with the thought of sharing space with a few hundred bees. Their energy can transfer to the bees and cause them to get aggressive.
- Secure the hive. Secure your bees so they don’t slide or roll around while you’re driving. If the hive is large enough, you can put it in a seat belt. Another option is to put the package on the floor in the backseat of your car and ensure the hive is firmly in place. Have a few ratchet straps on hand so you can secure the hive from all directions.
- Don’t panic if you see a few bees flying around while you drive. Even after taking all of the proper measures to secure a hive, don’t forget that bees are innovative creatures that will always find a way! If during your drive, you notice a few bees zooming around your car, don’t panic. Although some of the bees find a way out, that doesn’t mean that all of the bees will escape. Don’t worry about the few bees flying around inside the car. For the most part, bees will fly toward the windows and not focus on you. Remain calm and continue to your destination.
- Mist the bees to keep them cool. If the weather is warm, make it a priority to keep the bees cool. If you are picking up a package of bees, bring a spray bottle. Spray through the mesh portion of the crate to reach the bees. You can use plain water or a sugar-water mix. Spraying water will keep the bees cool and also calm during this disruptive time. Be sure not to drench the bees; a simple misting will be enough.
- Don’t make long stops. Safely bringing your bees to their destination should be your main goal. While you should make frequent stops to inspect and cool them down with a spray bottle, this isn’t the time to sit down for lunch or run errands. The hive should not be placed under unnecessary stress.
- Bring a beekeeping suit. Have a beekeeping suit for when you stop to inspect your bees. It’s not advised to drive with the beekeeping suit because the veil can hinder sight. However, many beekeepers find that wearing a suit gives them a sense of security. You can also opt to wear a beekeeping jacket while driving if it will keep you calm.
- If you have an emergency, bring the bees outside. If you have an emergency, like a flat tire, that will require you to stop for a long time, bring out your bees and put them in a shaded area while you work. It’s not good to keep them in the car if you’re not driving. Placing the bees outside will give them fresh air and better ventilation.
Help your bees reorient
When bees are moved less than 3 miles from their original hive location, there is a strong likelihood that bees will return to their old site. If bees return to their old hive location, they will get lost and eventually find another colony. You can lose a lot of bees this way but luckily there are ways to reorient your bees so they are aware of the change. There are a couple of things you can do to help your hive adjust to their new location.
- Leave the bees in the hive for 72 hours. Once your bees have arrived at their destination, keep the entrance closed for about 72 hours. This is called sequestration. Keeping the bees in their hive will alert them that something unnatural is happening. They begin to understand that something has blocked their entrance and they are prepared for a change. At the same time, ensure that the hive has proper ventilation since the bees will be unable to move during this time. Sequestration is not recommended in the hot weather due to the chance of overheating.
- Place an object in front of the hive entrance. Putting an object in front of the entrance of the hive causes the bees to reorient themselves because the view from the hive is now unfamiliar. You can use leaves, sticks, or branches to help a colony adjust to their new location. Without the object at the entry, bees will fly out and return to the original hive-site.
Transporting bees a long distance in a car doesn’t have to be an intimidating task. When you’re preparing to move a hive with your car, there are a few things you need to consider. First and foremost, always ensure that your bees have proper ventilation. Your bees should be placed inside of the car with access to open windows and air conditioning. To protect the colony and you as you drive, secure the hive or package. Use duct tape to close gaps and add additional protection at the seams. While transporting bees, plan to make a few quick stops to spray them down with either plain water or a sugar-water mix. Spraying them down will not only keep the bees cool, but also calm. Once your bees arrive in their new location, help them reorient so they don’t attempt to fly back to their old hive location.