Why Do Bees Leave Your Hive? 16 Reasons for Bee Absconding

Why Do Bees Leave Your Hive? 16 Reasons for Bee Absconding

Bee absconding is one of the nastiest things that can happen to a beekeeper's apiaries. In case you didn't know, this is a phenomenon where bees leave the hive for another, better home, causing an empty-beehive situation. According to keepers of these pollinators, the situation is quite disappointing.

Some people get confused about the difference between bee absconding and swarming. When a colony swarms (especially in fall), it splits into two. One colony moves away with the queen, and the other sticks around and brings up a new queen. On the other hand, when a colony absconds, all the insects (including the queen, drones and workers) leave the house.

In this article, I’m going to answer the following question: Why do honey bees abscond or leave the hive? The article describes all the reasons why bees abscond, so read on to learn about things that cause this heartbreaking phenomenon.

In Brief, Reasons Why Bees Abscond/Leave the Hive

  1. Uncomfortable hive
  2. Too high/low temperatures
  3. Strong winds
  4. Poor ventilation
  5. High humidity and poor drainage
  6. Frequent disturbance
  7. Obstructions in their flight paths
  8. Lack of enough food and water
  9. Parasite and disease attack
  10. Large animal raids
  11. Agrochemicals
  12. Overpopulation
  13. Lack of enough space in the combs
  14. Problems with the queen
  15. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
  16. The absconding genetics

1. Uncomfortable Hive—One of the Major Causes of the Bees Absconding Problem

There are many things that can make hives uncomfortable for these pollinators. One of the major factors is the smell of lumber and plywood glue or odor of paint. These insects cannot tolerate a 'bad' smell and would leave immediately if they detect it.

A poorly designed hive can also cause uncomfortable conditions. For example, the top-bar hive may not be perfectly designed. It lacks a suitable place for spreading wax. Bees are confused on whether to place wax on the top bars or along the inside walls, and they may just decide to move away, leaving an empty beehive.


For the decades that I have been keeping bees, I have learned that an uncomfortable hive is the main cause of the absconding problem. I was once using the top bar hives, and I had to replace them with the Langstroth hives. I have never been disappointed from that time on!

Featuring the right designs, Langstroths (and especially the Goodland hives) are the most comfortable hive out there! They have at least 20 frames for attaching combs and are quite spacious and strong. They don't confuse the pollinators on where to place the combs and wax as they have brood boxes and supers. And they come with an electric honey extractor, free informational DVD and queen excluder.

If you are using other types of hives and you are experiencing the absconding problem, I would advise you not to think twice about buying the Goodland Langstroth hive. Personally, I replaced 13 of my hives—something which increased my honey production tremendously.

2. Too High or Low Temperatures

Temperatures that are too high cause overheating in the interior. If you see bees staying outside, you should know the structure is overheating. Lack of ventilation can make the house too hot even in winter.

Low temperatures can also cause the absconding problem. The apiary structure can freeze or form snow in cold season, and this is one of the reasons why bees leave hives in the winter. Freezing and snow kill bees, so they will have to leave when temperatures get too low to avoid the threat.

3. Strong Winds

Strong winds swing 'hanged' hives, causing disturbance. The pollinators do not like disturbance and will have to leave if the interruption is unbearable. Strong winds also bring cold air inside the house.

4. Poor Beehive Ventilation

Like other organisms, bees need fresh air. If your structure is not well-ventilated, it is not providing enough oxygen to the insects, and this can make them leave for another home with good air flow.

Poor ventilation also causes temperature increase and odor accumulation. As mentioned above, these are some of the things that bees cannot bear, and they will have to move out if they are present.

5. High Humidity and Poor Drainage

Hives can get too wet in humid weather—a condition that is not liked by bees. The insects will abscond if there is water stagnating inside (caused by poor hive drainage). Water can destroy combs and kill both the young and adult bees, and if it turns into ice, it can damage the structure.

6. Frequent Disturbance

As mentioned earlier, disturbance can be caused by strong winds. Opening the house frequently can also be disturbing to the insects. In addition, regular maintenance of the structure can interfere with their peace.

7. Obstructions in Their Flight Paths

Bees need clear paths when flying; they do not like obstruction when getting water or nectar and pollen. If there are obstructions in their flight paths, they can decide to move to another place that offers clear and smooth flight ways.

8. Lack of Enough Food and Water

Beekeepers have a duty to provide bees with food and water, especially when the colony is new. When the colony grows larger, the pollinators can make their own food and also obtain water from around the area. Your bees might leave the hive if you do not provide these necessities. They can also leave if there are no plants or water sources in the surroundings.


Many bee foods have been formulated and manufactured, but I don't think there are any that can beat the Mann Lake FD200. With a variety of nutrients—lipids, minerals and vitamins—this is so far the best food for your pollinators.

I have been using it in my apiary, and I never have issues of bees leaving or dying. It energizes the insects, allowing them to make more honey and reproduce. I actually raise bees for new hives (from the existing colonies) with the help of this food!

If you are using less reputable foods that don't develop your bees, I would encourage you to try the Mann Lake food! It significantly increased my honey production as well as the number of bees.

9. Parasite and Disease Attack

Bee parasites feed on the honey and can also harm the insects directly. Some pests that can lead to the loss of your colony include mites (tracheal and varroa), ants, birds, butterflies and wasps.

Diseases can also cause the absconding phenomenon. Some common bee diseases include American foulbrood, European foulbrood, chalkbrood, stonebrood, cripaviridae, chilled brood and dysentery.

10. Large Animal Raids

Invasions of large animals in apiaries have been one of the major reasons why bees leave hives. Some animals destroy the structure and eat the honey, while others eat the insects. Good examples of the animals are bears, raccoons, skunks and mice.

11. Agrochemicals

Chemicals used in farms can cause the absconding situation. Pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and other crop and animal chemicals can kill a big portion of the colony and drive away the remaining ones.

12. Overpopulation

A colony swarms if it grows extra large, but sometimes it can abscond. When the house becomes too populated and there are other factors interfering with the comfort, all the bees can leave it and split afterwards.

13. Lack of Enough Space in the Combs

This situation is different from overpopulation or congestion. If there is not enough space in the combs to store honey or for the queen to lay eggs, the honey bees can leave. Lack of enough space in the combs can be due to swarming and having few worker bees left to make the space.

The colony left can be too small to make new combs, and it can opt to feed on all the honey and leave. If it leaves, it can be absorbed by another bigger colony or die away.

14. Problems with the Queen

One of the major problems of the queen is old age. When the queen bee becomes too old, it stops laying eggs, resulting in a lack of broods to replace the dead bees or the ones that have swarmed. The colony grows small due to this situation and can end up absconding.

Another problem is when the queen dies. Loss of the queen means there that are no new bees to manage the hive in the future. The colony can raise another queen or pack up and move.

15. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Apiary owners can have the absconding problem even when they have done everything to prevent it. Bees that move away without any good reason are said to have the Colony Collapse Disorder. Apiculture professionals and entomologists are doing research on this disorder.

16. The Absconding Genetics

Some honey bees carry the absconding gene and are usually quick to leave the apiary. Any slight uncomfortable condition can trigger them to say bye to their home. The Africanized ones are said to carry the gene.

In Conclusion…

Bee absconding is a situation that can hurt your apiculture business. You can make great losses and even close down the apiary due to empty beehives! If you do subsistence apiculture, your family can lack natural honey when the phenomenon occurs.

And now that you know the reasons why bees leave hive, you definitely want to know how to prevent the phenomenon. Here are 12 ways to prevent the absconding problem. Go through these ways to know how to prevent the problem once and for all!

Absconding Honey Bees - Video

Questions & Answers

Question: Will I find the bee colony after absconding?

Answer: Yeah, if they settled near your home/farm, but not possible if they flew far away!

Question: How far will a bee colony abscond? How far can they travel per day?

Answer: Bee colonies abscond next to the hive or miles away. They can't fly a whole day, but they can cover three miles in one flying session.

Question: Why do bees leave hives without the queen?

Answer: Usually, the queen is left with a few bees, so you may get some bees back or the queen may die forcing you to bring in a new package of bees.

© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on January 31, 2019:

@Oxbeef yeah, highly likely to be the wet conditions.

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on January 31, 2019:

@Oxbeef yeah, highly likely to be the wet conditions.

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on November 11, 2018:

See how to deal with the cold, ants and dysentery which are highly likely to be causing the abscond.

TAYLOR BAGNELL on November 10, 2018:

Warre style top var 3 years later 5 boxes high, Im not sure exactly what happened. I guess they were doing so well they absconded. They were building new comb, half the hive 3 1/2 boxes completely unused, So much honey left no drones AT all for 2 months now. I saw a new emerging queen a week ago, now I don't. Theres one fresh looking bee But I see no new Brood. It's cold the ants are invading there was always kwing cbpv dwv nosema, dysentery symptoms. But overall it was a huge suprise when i havested just a slow decline, now barely any bees what should I do?

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on June 21, 2018:

If you are talking about harvesting honey, then you can always open your hive and check if there is enough honey!

Yossi on June 21, 2018:


How do i know when the bees hive is ready for collection?


Ellis myers on May 05, 2018:

when bees live there hive is the honey still good

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on April 14, 2018:

Just make the conditions right this time round! Go carefully through this article and related articles.

Oxbeef on April 13, 2018:

I just had a colony I installed last Saturday abscond. The conditions I think may have caused it are:

- cold and rainy on installation day and 2 days after.

- disturbance to the bee package - I managed to drop the queen cage into the box and had to fish it out. I paid the price for that!

- I have been away from beekeeping for a few years. The hive was one that I set out some years ago to see if I could catch a swarm (did not happen!). Anyway I put it away until this year. The foundation looked to be in good condition so I set it out. But, it was old and yellow. Also, today I discovered the pheromone lure that I placed in there. So, I think the old foundation or the lure might be the culprit.

The queen had been released and was nowhere to be seen. Just a couple of dead bees on the bottom board. Maybe a dozen live bees wandering aimlessly. One drone was on his back struggling. They were fed and for the first couple of days consumed their syrup at a reasonable rate.

I have another package coming next week, so I would appreciate having your esteemed opinion on this unfortunate event. Thanks!!

Oxbeef on April 13, 2018:

I just had a colony I installed last Saturday abscond. Thanks!!

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on March 22, 2018:

Yeah, they are in the process of looking for a new home.

Curt on March 21, 2018:

I have a bivouac - small bee hive- growing in backyard, from a branch.Is this possibly a temporary thing ?

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on January 15, 2018:

It must be due to the weather extremes - very cold and warm weather conditions in the locations. As of now, weather seems to have stabilized a little bit and the swarms are looking for new homes.

Sharon Mitchell on January 15, 2018:

No sign of parasite or predator..extremely mild winter..six days after check..gone..lost all five hives in one week..different locations..very warm week for southern Colorado..left full hives of honey..did not pull honey..wanted to secure another hive had tremondous amount of brood..and many clusters of dead bees on still with warm unseasonal weather bees are all over checking out empty hives

Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on January 31, 2017:

Hello Christopher, it's highly likely that they found a new home and moved out immediately leaving behind some honey- after eating enough of it.

Christopher Smith on January 28, 2017:

I ran into some honeycombs filled with two pounds of guey delicious honey. I pulled four sheets of combs out of a tree. There were no bees and the honey was found when I cut into the tree and it started pouring out..Why no bees?

Watch the video: BEES IN THE HEART OF TREES - Natural Beekeeping in the forest - ZEIDLEREI (May 2021).