Bee colony transfer

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Note: Most of the content was retrieved from the books "Beekeeping Manual for beginners" by Holeta Bee Research Center and the APIRE project [1]. and from "Advanced Beekeeping Manual by Ethiopian Beekeepers Association and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV-Ethiopia).[2]


To transfer bee colonies from a traditional or a nucleus hive to a transitional, or a modern frame hives several arrangements have to be made:

  • Bring the bees and the hive they are currently living in to the new site to acclimate them to the new surroundings
  • Fence the area if predators live nearby
  • Only use pure beeswax (no chemicals) for the wax foundations
  • Prepare wax foundations for the new hive (frame wire, embedded knife or transformator, casting mould)
  • Clean the new hive and frames prior to any operation
  • Prepare the new site by clean the ground from plants and based on your region or topographics (e.g. backyard beekeeping) do the transfer process in the evening. Avoid sites near frequently used roads or agricultural fields.


  • New hive
  • Activated smoker
  • Bee brush
  • Water sprayer (optional)
  • Bee hive chisel
  • Knife
  • Collection pan for old combs and another one for smooth honey combs
  • A flat sheet to place the hive on during transfer
  • Wagon for transporting unused materials
  • Wire or rope
  • Queen cage
  • Feeder frame, or box for supering
  • Needle and rope
  • Protective clothes

Transfer of the bee colony from a traditional (Ethiopia) hive into a modern frame hive

  1. Put the prepared sheet on the ground
  2. Place the smoker, the bee brush and the optional water sprayer nearby
  3. Place the traditional hive on the sheet/mat and keep its position (do not roll it!)
  4. Bring the new hive near the sheet and open the lid/cover of the frame hive; the entrance of the frame hive should be towards the mat
  5. From now on work carefully to avoid damaging the bees or the queen bee
  6. Open the lid of the traditional hive and immediately smoke around the edges
  7. Remove the combs one by one and always watch out for the queen. The brood and honey combs need to be placed separately
  8. Use the bee brush to clear the combs from remaining bees
  9. If already discovered the queen, catch her. Otherwise look out for her on the mat/sheet
  10. Place the queen in the new hive to attract the other bees of the colony
  11. Safe the brood combs and tie them to empty frames with a needle and rope
  12. When the old hive is empty, hold it with both hands and forcefully known down on the mat to remove all bees from the inside. Make sure that no bees are left in the hive
  13. Is the process done, place the new hive in position of the old hive
  14. Clean the working area and the materials

Follow up and support the colony

On the next day, go back to the site and inspect the beehive and the surroundings. Did the bees already adapt to the new conditions? Bees going in and out the hive and bring back pollen is a good sign.


  1. Holeta (unknown date). Beekeeping Manual for beginners.
  2. Ethiopian Beekeepers Association & SNV (2011). Advanced Beekeeping Manual. Express Printers PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.