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Why Do Bees Leave A Hive? (Absconding)


Absconding and swarming are two ways honey bees abandon their hive in masse. Each of these occurrences happens for various causes and has a distinct effect on your hive.

Absent bee colonies quit a hive, leaving just a few young bees and a limited quantity of brood and food behind. If their colony becomes unsuitable owing to a lack of supplies, pests, frequent disruptions, or other factors, bees will flee. They may also leave new hives to which they haven't yet acclimated.

Swarming is a natural process through which bees establish a new colony and increase their number. A hive containing around half of the bees is left behind by the queen (including some drones). The colony starts the process of producing a new queen for the remaining bees before swarming.

If your bees go, your hive will be almost empty, and you will have to start again. Your colony's population will be diminished if it swarms, but the surviving bees will continue with a new queen.

For additional information on swarming, see that post What Is A Swarm Trap? (How To Get "FREE" Bees).

Absconding is a rare occurrence, but swarming is something you should be cautious of every year.

This article explains why people abscond and what you may do to avoid it.


A hive may be unappealing to honey bees for a number of reasons. Mitigating such concerns reduces the likelihood of your bees fleeing.

Hives that are brand new

It takes time for bee packages and freshly caught swarms to settle into a new hive. Honey bees may flee if they don't have brood, comb, or honey to connect them to their new home. You may, however, take precautions to maintain them in place.

To anchor the bees, consider adding a whole frame of comb, honey, or brood from another colony to the new box.

Scents, propolis, and wax are used, and disease-free hive boxes make the bees feel at peace.

Paint new hive boxes well ahead of time before using them. Allow time for any chemical scents to evaporate before bringing the bees in.

Sugar syrup gives nutrients and aids in the creation of combs.

Delay the queen's release from the cage in exchange for a bee package to keep her in place. You may either cage the queen with a recently captured swarm or just put a queen excluder beneath the brood box and above the bottom board for a short period of time. The colony will not flee now that the queen has been captured and will continue to develop comb.

Resources are scarce.

If a colony's honey reserves are depleted and foraging opportunities are limited, bees may flee in search of better pastures. Unfortunately, if the colony does not stockpile enough food for the winter, this may happen in the autumn. A colony that flees in the autumn is unlikely to make it through the winter.

Bees may eat honey stockpiles and be unable to restore them when supplies are insufficient, such as during a summer nectar shortage. A sugar syrup may be fed to them, and water can be provided as required.

Infestation by pests or parasites

Varroa mites, ants, tiny hive beetles, and wax moths are just a few of the parasites that might force a colony to flee.

The greatest protection against most pests is a big, healthy colony (varroa mites being an exception). Smaller, weaker colonies are more vulnerable to overcrowding, prompting bees to flee.

Keep the apiary and bottom boards clean and clear of detritus that pests might hide in. Burr comb should not be removed and thrown on the ground around the hives since it may attract unwelcome visitors.

Varroa Mites

Varroa Mites are a severe hazard to honeybees. To manage varroa, consider testing and treatment.


To keep ants out of beehives, beekeepers use a number of techniques. To begin, raise the hive off the ground using a hive stand. Ants may be kept at bay by coating hive stand legs with oil or placing them in cans with oil or water. With mixed success, we placed a line of petroleum jelly around a low hive box. As an ant repellent, use cinnamon powder or sticks.

Small Hive Beetles & Wax Moths

To eliminate wax moth and tiny hive beetle eggs, freeze comb for at least 24 hours after extracting honey before storing.

Small hive beetle traps have been shown to be successful in controlling them. In their online article Managing Small Hive Beetles, the University of Arkansas - Division of Agriculture provides a list of traps as well as further information.

Reduce the amount of space your bees must defend against pests. Empty supers full of comb should not be left on the hive as a breeding habitat. The advantages of maintaining a healthy, numerous colony are negated by forcing bees to cover this more region.

Wax moths, tiny hive beetles, and other pests are all covered on BeeAware's website.

Frequently Occurring Disturbance

If the colony is often disturbed, the bees may determine that there are better locations to dwell and abandon the colony.


You, as a beekeeper, might potentially be the source of the frequent disruption, particularly if you're setting up a new hive. While a new colony is establishing itself, keep intrusions to a minimum.

Allow time for the bees to adjust. For a period, avoid weed whacking, grass mowing, and other activities that may upset a new colony near the apiary. Bees respond to vibrations in addition to sound.


At night, hungry skunks, raccoons, and bears often damage hives. Absconding may be triggered by repeated behavior.

Bears will not just upset a hive; they will destroy it. Bees may flee if the hive components are dispersed. Bears keep coming back after they locate a food supply that is easily available. An electric fence is the most effective bear deterrent.

To keep skunks and raccoons out, put the hive on a stand. Use brick, stone, or ratchet straps to keep the lid secure.

Interior Atmosphere of the Hive

Bees may leave a hive if it becomes too hot or damp, or if it lacks appropriate ventilation.

Hives should, at the very least, get early sunshine. However, without some shade, the temperature of a hive might get too hot in the afternoon.

Our inside coverings are notched to provide for a higher entry, improved ventilation, and heat escape. A screened bottom board with a drawer removed is also beneficial.

For greater access and ventilation, we drill 34" holes in certain of our supers. Rain is unlikely to blow into the holes since they are angled. When necessary, we install low-cost access gates to fill these gaps (like to prevent robbing).

Getting Your Bees Back

When your bees flee, you can get fortunate. You may be able to recapture them if you see them momentarily gathered close on a tree branch or fence post as they wait for scout bees to locate a new home.

It's worth a shot if they land in an accessible location. Do not put yourself in danger by using ladders to reach bees high up in a tree. (Waving farewell and wishing them well is preferable.)

Move swiftly since you may only have an hour or two before the bees leave.

Prepare the following:

  • Protective clothing (especially a veil)
  • If necessary, a small ladder or step stool
  • If necessary, prune using pruning shears or another instrument to eliminate a branch.
  • Sugar syrup in a spray bottle
  • Brush with a bee
  • a closed container (such as a cardboard box) in which the bees may be kept (optionally, a cage if you can separate the queen)
  • Under the brood box are a queen excluder and a new hive box with some comb and honey.

Normally, swarming bees are quite gentle. However, if they have been grouped for a long period without food or if they departed due to a predator assault, their attitude may be more protective. Wear protective clothing to be on the safe side.

While they eat, a brief spritz of sugar syrup helps keep them crowded together.

Clip small bee-infested branches and shake them into a box or other container. Remove them as gently as possible without jerking them loose.

You may gently brush them off with a sharp shake of a bigger limb, or you can shake them off with a sharp shake of a larger limb.

Find the queen in your container and see if you can find her. If that's the case, you may transport the covered container to the new hive right away. As though you were installing a bee package, shake in the bees.

Do not reintroduce them into the original hive. It was for a reason that the bees abandoned it.

For a few days, the queen excluder should keep them from leaving while they adjust. After that, take out the excluder and check whether they're still there.

Before you re-use the deserted hive, attempt to figure out what pushed them out so you can avoid it in the future.


Absconding is a rather uncommon occurrence. Any beekeeper knows that abandoning a hive and losing a whole colony is an expensive mistake.

The most likely bees to flee are those that have just been placed.

Provide your bees with a safe haven that is centrally placed, dry, and well-ventilated, as well as appropriate protection from predators. Only disturb the colony when absolutely required.

Unnecessary boxes should not be added to the colony's job. Keep an eye out for indicators of pest infestation and take action as soon as possible.

If you provide a nice environment for the bees, they are more likely to remain at home.