How to Find a Bees’ Nest: Track, Locate & Transfer Bees to Your Hive

Bees live in colonies in hives or nests and finding one is quite easy if you know what you’re doing. Finding a bees’ nest can be the start of your own colony since you can give them a new home. You can even make them come to you with the tips shared in the following sections.

Bee hives can be found in many places including the 4×4-inch spaces in concrete and cinder blocks, under the floor of the garage, tree branches, holes in the ground, and many other places. Always use protective gear to handle such bees since they may sting you in protest when you try to move them.

Swarm of Bees on a Tree Branch

What is a Beehive/Bees Nest?

Beehives may take many forms, but typically, they are unique structures made of wax with a honeycomb shape and tiny openings where bees live. Bees use the upper portion of their combs to store honey and their lower cavity to store pollen. 

Beehives can be found in the wild or artificial man-made structures. Wild beehives can be found on the ground, tree branches, rocks, tree holes or wounds, and vegetation. On the other hand, artificial beehives are man-made structures that beekeepers locally purchase or set up. These include the typical beehives and honey bee houses.

How to Find a Bees Nest

Here are essential steps to follow when finding bees’ nests in the wild:

1. Track Bees During Spring or Summer

Bees are more active when the weather is warm as the flowers bloom. High humidity from rainfall increases the plants’ flowering ability. Therefore, after recent rainfall, plants will have more flowers during the warm season. This creates more nectar that attracts bees.

Thus, spring or summer seasons make it easy to find bees. You can even plant flowering plants as one way of helping bees make honey and carry out pollination.

2. Wear Protective Gear

Protective clothing will guard you against stings. Pants and long sleeves are suitable protective clothing. Clothing with white color is best to discourage insects and protect you from overheating. 

Also, put on a hat with a veil and gloves designed for beekeeping. Put on sturdy shoes or boots that allow you to quickly move along the terrains when following bees.

3. Acquire Your Supplies

Here are all the necessary supplies you will need when finding bees:

  • Artificial nectar
  • Bee box
  • Honeycomb (you can get from bees)
  • Stopwatch
  • Compass
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Bee brush
  • Clippers (for cutting branches)

Bee boxes are made from mesh screens and wood. You can buy some from your local or online store. Also, you can make your own by using a cardboard file box by holding it firm.

4. Place Some Food in the Bee Box

Prepare some artificial nectar by mixing 6 tablespoons of sugar (89 ml), 2 tablespoons of honey (30 ml), and an equal amount of water to fully dissolve the sugar and honey. Later, scoop a tablespoon of artificial nectar, pour it on the honeycomb, and place it on the bottom of the bee box.

5. Find a Natural Swarm

Try to find a natural swarm by taking your bee box and other supplies near a flower area where worker bees access food. Bees like sunflowers, cosmos, lavender, rosemary, bluebells, clematis, snapdragons, and poppies. Therefore, always consider looking out for these flowers first.

6. Use Nectar to Attract Bees (If Necessary)

If it’s too hard to trace the bees, attract them using a bowl full of artificial nectar. Locate it close to an area you have previously seen swarms of bees, especially in the field of wildflowers or in a garden. Alternatively, you can place some lemongrass oil inside the bee box to attract bees.

How to Track Bees to Their Nests

After finding bees, you need to track them to their nests in the following steps:

1. Capture Some Bees in the Bee Box

If you find bees on a large branch, put them into the box by gently shaking and dropping the branch into the box. If they are clustered on flower stems or small shrubs, carefully clip the vegetation and transport it with bees to the bee box. 

Also, if you notice bees on a wall or fence, sweep them into the box using a bee brush. After securing some bees in the box, close the lid and wait for some time. At this step, it is necessary to put on the veil, gloves, and other protective clothing to prevent bees’ stings if they get agitated.

2. Wait for the Bees to Settle and Then Release Them

You will notice bees have settled after they stop buzzing. This means that they have started eating the food you have provided. Typically, bees will fly out immediately when you open the lid on the box. So, give them a few minutes to finish eating. At this point, bees are more confused and will fly in circles before heading to their colony.

3. Measure How Long Bees Take to Come Back in The Box

Bees will come back for more food. Leave the lid open to allow them back for another round. After they leave the box, they will move to their hive. Use your stopwatch timer to track how long they take to move to their hive and back. Generally, bees travel less than one mile in search of food. Here are the possible estimates:

  • Bees will take 3 minutes or less if the hive is less than 0.40 km away.
  • Bees will take approximately 5-10 minutes if the hive is 0.80 km away.
  • Bees will take 10-20 minutes if the hive is 1.6 km away.

4. Track The Bees to Their Hive

Once bees come back for food two or three times, you approximate how far their hive is away. On their third or fourth trip, follow them to their hive. Observe their direction of motion to know the direction they are moving towards.

To ensure you are heading in the right direction, you can use your compass for accuracy. Also, you can use your phone or a GPS device to measure the distance.

Bee lining is the act by which bees fly back directly to their hives after gathering the needed food for the hive. Each bee fills its pollen baskets before flying back to the hive. As beekeepers, we harness that to find out where wild bees live.

5. Search for Their Nest in a Tree or Other Sheltered Place

Always observe the direction of the bees to ensure you are moving in the right direction. After following the bees, keenly look at the trees you pass, searching for possible holes or cavities that could be the bees’ nest. 

Other nests can be found on the ground or in fallen logs. Carefully listen to the bees buzzing as they will direct you to the right spot.

If you lose track of bees when following them, go back to the place you provided nectar and wait for the bees to come back for food. Then, attempt tracing them to their hive.

What Should I Do If I Find a Bees Nest?

After finding the bees’ nest, you can conveniently transfer them to your hive using the following possible options:

  1. Determine how safe it is to access the bees. If the colony is within an arm’s length, reach out, don’t worry! If the colony is positioned on a high ground level, evaluate using your judgment whether you can access it using a ladder, access the bees using a box, and get down using the ladder. 

CAUTION: the attraction of bees can lead you to decisions you never opted for, exposing you to significant risks. There are other possible colonies in other places, so there is no need to risk your life on a swarm.

  1. Always wear your protective attires. These include gloves and a hat-veil for newbies.
  2. Slowly cover the swarm with a white-colored sheet and place the bee box on top.
  3. Try as much as you can to move the swarm into the box. You will find the queen at the center of the swarm. Within minutes, you will realize if the queen did not make it to the box. Workers will move back to the branch if the queen is not in the box. Otherwise, they will stay in the box if the queen is there.

If the colony is on a branch, you can shake the bees into the box. If the bees are on vegetation or small branches, you can cut the vegetation using pruning shears and place the bees into the box. You need to be careful and nimble at this stage. However, you will need to transfer bees into their new home.

If bees are located on a wall, fence, mailbox, or other structures, you need to spray them with a sugar-water solution using a spray bottle. Using your bee brush, brush them into the box downward. Try as much as you can not to break the cluster.

If the swarm is on the ground, place the box close with some lemongrass oil in it then tilt the box at an angle to allow them to move in.

  1. Partially close the box to allow scout and stranger bees to enter through.
  2. Leave the bee box at this position until the sun is down. During the day, scout bees will be out looking for a new hive location. There is no need to leave behind returning strangers and scout bees.
  3. Shut the box entirely when the night comes and use tape to secure it properly. Alternatively, place the bee box in a mesh swarm bag.
  4. Gently transport the bees in the box and place them in a risk-free place overnight.
  5. Early the following morning, install the bee colony into your new hive when it is not hot to prevent overheating.

After that, you should take care of the bee colony as your own. While finding a wild honey bee location is easy, getting the bees into your own hives is quite a task. If you can’t do it yourself, call for an expert.


As you have seen, finding a bee nest is an easy task. You only need to follow our practical approach to follow bees. Later, track the bees into their nest using our helpful tracking approach. Also, you can use our practical options for transferring bees to your hive.

However, you need to wear protective gear and observe all noted precautions for safety purposes. You can now easily find bees in their nest and transfer them to your new hive.


University of California. Removing Honey Bee Swarms and Established Hives.

The Pennsylvania State University. Nesting Sites.

University of New Hampshire. Should I be concerned about ground nesting bees in my yard?

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