Hive Heat Wave Preparation
We recently endured five days straight of over 40C temperatures and had some dramas with comb collapse. Another string of very hot days is predicted and we wanted to improve our heat wave preparation in the hopes of avoiding more problems.
Last March we did Tim Malfroy’s Natural Beekeeping Course through Milkwood Permaculture, and Tim was the obvious person to ask for advice on managing hives with natural comb in crazy hot weather – he has had a great deal of experience with this himself.
So, after talking to Tim we now have a revised hive heat wave preparation plan:
Shade from midday onwards
Temperatures here tend to peak between 4-6pm, so providing plenty of protection from direct sunlight after lunchtime is really important.
All of our hives are already situated under deciduous trees (poplars) so that they get morning sun and afternoon shade, as well as winter sun. Unfortunately the poplars started dropping their leaves due to heat stress so they’re not providing as much shade as we’d like.
We now have shade cloth to help block out the Western sun and (after running out of shade cloth) nailed bed sheets to trees for a bit of extra sun protection.
Nadir where possible
Nadiring (putting an empty box underneath the brood chamber, as opposed to supering where they’re put above) enables the bees to move out of the brood chamber when it gets too hot without having to beard outside the hive and increases air circulation within the hive.
We have a total of three hives, two Langstroths and a Warre.
The Warre is designed for nadiring so that was easy.
In the smallest Langstroth, the colony is only occupying the brood box at the moment, and it was easy enough to get an empty ideal box underneath (although the Warre was much easier to work with!).
The largest Langstroth has two ideal honey supers on top of the brood box and a shitload of bees in it. This hive did fine in the last heat wave, barely bearded at all, so we figured we’d leave them be as nadiring would have meant a lot of mucking around.
Insulation below the roof
Insulation is good for obvious reasons: it will help keep the internal environment of the hive more stable with external temperature fluctuations. So, all hives now have a “quilt box” – a box under the roof with a pillowcase filled with wood shavings in it. The Warre has a 10cm deep quilt box, the two Langstroths have an ideal depth quilt box.
Tin roofs get extremely hot, painting them white to reflect heat will further help with preventing internal hive temperatures getting beyond what the bees can manage.
Full width entrance
A full width entrance will improve ventilation (think about the difference between a door halfway open and fully open in a stuffy house).
Going into this next stretch of very hot weather we’re feeling much more confident and hopefully the bees will come through unscathed!
********************UPDATE: We went away for a couple of weeks, during which there were several over 40 degree celsius days. Em’s dad checked the hives on the really hot days and said there was no bearding and no sign of comb collapse. Seems that the above changes were very effective and now we know exactly what to do next summer!****************************