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Providing a safe home for your bees is of the utmost importance. They should be able to come and go freely from the hive but there may be times that you need to close it for the bees’ own benefit. Usually, this would be when you need to move the hive and not only will this keep the bees safely inside but it’ll also keep you safe during the action. But how long can you keep a beehive closed before it becomes dangerous for them?
You shouldn’t keep the hive closed any longer than is necessary. That said, bees will survive for quite lengthy periods inside a closed hive as long as there is sufficient ventilation.
In this guide, we’ll cover how long to leave the hive closed in a little more detail and give you some great tips on the best way to move a beehive.
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When you move a hive over long distances, you may be worried about leaving the bees in a closed hive for too long. The best rule to follow is that you shouldn’t leave the bees enclosed for any longer than you absolutely need to.
If you are moving the hive more than around four miles away, you won’t have to reorientate the bees as they will take to their new hive location.
However, if you’re not moving the hive as far then there is a risk that the bees will try to relocate the old hive location. In this case, many beekeepers will use a distraction outside of the beehive and ensure that only one entrance is used.
Other people like to leave the hive closed up for a period of time to distract the bees from the fact that they have been moved. The only problem with this is knowing how long to leave it. In most cases, 24 hours will be enough but some people like to leave it up to three days. You should never keep the hive closed for longer than this.
But however long you’re leaving the hive closed, you must make sure that it is well ventilated. If it isn’t, it won’t take long before the bees overheat and when you reopen the hive, it’ll be likely that they’ve all died. I’ve heard horror stories of beekeepers accidentally leaving the hive closed in hot weather and coming back to utter devastation.
Keeping bees in a closed hive is one thing but keeping them in a closed nuc is a totally different kettle of fish.
A nuc is short for a nucleus colony which is created by splitting the hive into a smaller colony. And they are very small. Typically they’ll contain around five frames but some only contain one.
Nucs are normally used for one of several reasons including when you buy or sell colonies. In this case, the nuc will usually be made from cardboard which prevents sellers from having to send their wooden ones away. However, the problem with these is that they aren’t very sturdy.
You might also use a nuc if you’re looking to separate the queen or when you want to prevent swarming if you have a particularly large colony. But whatever you’re using the nuc for, it’s essential that you know how long the bees can stay inside while it is closed.
In a closed nuc, things can get pretty dangerous, pretty quickly so you don’t want to leave the bees inside any longer than you need to. Anything more than a couple of hours and you’re potentially looking at losing most, if not all of the colony.
That said, you may need to keep the bees in a closed nuc from time to time including when they are being transported.
Normally, when you buy bees, you will receive them in a cardboard box and the main issue with this is that the ventilation is terrible. The result is that the bees quickly start dying off. If you have to keep them in a closed nuc for a couple of hours, make sure that you place them somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight.
There are some bee suppliers that ask you only to collect the bees after the sun has gone down. This will prevent issues with the box overheating. However, regardless of this, if you are keeping bees in a closed nuc you must make absolutely certain that they have an appropriate feeder as it won’t take much for them to starve.
In an open nuc, the bees can fly in and out as they please so it’s OK to keep them here for a little longer. But I wouldn’t recommend using one for more than a few weeks at a time. By this point, they will have completely drawn out the comb but the true length of time will depend on several things.
This might include the weather, the type of nuc you are using and its purpose, the health of the bees, and the temperature. The size of the nuc is also an important consideration because larger colonies in a smaller nuc will starve pretty quickly. Moreover, these small nucs are prone to being robbed.
One of the main reasons that you might need to close your bee hive is to move it. Perhaps you’re moving house or are giving the hive to someone else. In this case, moving the hive over longer distances does require a good deal of preparation if you want things to go smoothly.
The last thing you want to do when moving a beehive is to do it without securing everything. This is where straps come in super handy as you can use them to secure the brood box to the baseboard. Ratchet straps are ideal for longer moves and offer the best security and sturdiness.
Whether or not you close the hive will largely depend on how far you are planning to transport the bees. If you aren’t going much further than 30 feet then there’s really no need to close the hive. In fact, it’s probably better if you leave it open.
However, if you are going any further than this, it’s a good idea to shut up the entrance during the move. But make sure that you do this at the right time so that you can be sure all of the bees are inside. First thing in the morning should be OK but it’s better if you can seal the hive at night when all the bees are guaranteed to be inside. This will prevent you from losing any bees; they’re all important members of the hive, after all.
If you have a few stray bees, it is possible to smoke them back into the hive by blowing a couple of puffs near the entrance.
I cannot express enough the importance of ventilation when you close the hive. Beehives will get very hot very quickly so keeping air flowing through is essential in ensuring the bees’ survival.
There are some bee hives that come with built-in ventilation control which makes life a lot easier. However, if yours doesn’t then use some mesh across the opening will seal it but won’t prevent air from moving through.
Note that, when moving a beehive over a shorter distance, it is possible for the bees to try to go back to the old location. As we discussed earlier, this may mean distracting the bees and taking measures to ensure that this doesn’t happen. However, if you’re going more than four miles, it really won’t be a problem and the bees will likely settle well in their new spot.
Sometimes, you might want to move your beehive just a little way. Perhaps you have found a better location in the yard and want to let the bees benefit from this. That’s fine as moving a hive over distances less than 30 meters can be done easily.
You don’t want to try and move this hive all in one go, as again, this can confuse the bees. Instead, just move it a little bit each day. Anything up to six feet a day is acceptable and you’ll have the hive in its new position in just a few days.
But even moving it six feet at a time will need some preparation. Make sure to wear your bee suit and strap the hive so it remains secure. You might find that the bees return to the original location but it won’t take long for them to find the hive again because it is so close by.
For the most part, I would recommend keeping your beehive open but there may be times you need to close it. Usually, this will be when you need to move the hive but how long can you keep a beehive closed?
You should only keep the hive closed for as long as is really necessary. As soon as it’s possible to open it again, do so. The reason for this is that the inside of the hive can overheat and this will cause the colony to die off.
If you have to close the hive, make sure that it is well ventilated.