January | Beehive Management

Beehive Management this Month in the Geelong Region

As we enter the hottest months of the year, beekeepers have a particular obligation to ensure the welfare of their bees in terms of shade and access to clean water. This latter matter may adversely impact on neighbors if not properly attended to.

Locating the Hive

There are several key factors to consider in determining where to locate a hive. This should be carefully done before bringing a hive in, as once positioned any change is difficult to achieve, as the bees will have precisely factored in their specific hive location.

Shade

Ensure that the hive has dappled shade throughout the day if possible, under a medium / large tree with a good shade canopy. If this is not possible, provide a situation where the hive is sheltered from the sun during the hottest part of the day, that is. between 1pm – 4pm in summer.

Alternatively, place some additional covering over the top of the hive to reduce the suns heat, for example, shade cloth attached to stakes in the ground, an air- gap formed by pieces of timber on the hive lid with an additional board on top.

If adequate protection is not provided from the intense summer heat, days of over 40 degrees may see the honey and wax inside the hive melt down, blocking the entrance, causing the bees to be trapped inside the hive and drown in their own honey.

Direction

Face the hive entrance in a north easterly direction. This provide the hive with warmth of the early morning sun and encourages the bees to begin foraging earlier than if it is faced in another direction.

 Wind

Bees strive to maintain the temperature inside the hive at 35 degrees, which is critical for brood development and reduction of water content in the nectar (to approx. 17%) to form honey.  In placement of the hive, face the entrance away from any known cool prevailing wind direction to limit impact on hive temperature. In the Victoria these are generally southerly or westerly winds.

 Flight path

Wherever the hive is located, the bees will establish a “flight path” into / out of the hive. Bearing this in mind, do not place the hive in a position where people are likely to walk into this “flight path” Keeping an area of approx. 5 meters “people free” in front of the hive, significantly reduces likelihood of “contact” between bees and people.

If locating the hive in a backyard, consider placing it in the corner of the yard; near the back fence or another less “trafficked” area.

 Micro climates

That said, every location is different!  Even within the one backyard there will be “micro climates”; areas of differing amounts of shade, wind, air currents, flight paths for the bees and so on. You must assess your own situation thoroughly. Seek advice from a more experienced beekeeper if uncertain.

 Water availability

Under the law as a beekeeper, you have a responsibility for the welfare of those animals (bees) in your care. Access to fresh water is of paramount importance at all times (a hive can require up to 1 litre of water per day in summer).   Ensuring a water supply is readily accessible before you locate the hive is vital. Once the bees arrive they will quickly find the nearest available water supply for their use. Once a “source” is established it is extremely difficult to alter the bee’s behavior. If you do not provide the water, the bees may take advantage of a neighbor’s swimming pool causing havoc, very poor neighborly relations and complaints about management of your hives.

  • A suitable water supply could be in the form of a wide shallow dish, with flat stones placed in it to allow the bees to land and drink the water.

    bees drinking out of dripper system
    Bees drinking out of dripper system in a garden

 Neighbors

A vital factor in beekeeping is to maintain positive neighborly relations. Nothing can destroy this relationship a quickly as “poor beekeeping”! Prior to bringing in your hive, discuss with your neighbors what you intend to do.

To this end:

i) Ensure you have an appropriate water source as discussed above!

ii) Make sure you have “quiet” bees. If not, requeen!

iii) Place the hive where the bees are forced to fly up at least two meters before exiting your property, thus reducing the likelihood the neighbor walking into their flight path  (generally, placement near a solid fence line or bushy area will be adequate).

iv) Locate the hive where it is not visible to neighbors. Out of sight, out of mind!

fence
Place hives near a solid fence line

 

Don’t forget to point out the positive aspects of having a hive next door:

  • Pollination of their vegetable garden and fruit trees, and hopefully some delicious honey.

If issues do arise with bees and neighbors try to be diplomatic (remember that the bees causing the issue may not even be from your hive).

Perhaps offer to relocate your hives elsewhere for a time allowing you to requeen and obtain quieter bees. Being aggressive about issues may only worsen matters and result in the local council becoming involved.

 Small Hive Beetle

Given the current hot and at times humid weather conditions we are facing over summer, you are reminded to be particularly aware of the possibility of hive infestation by the “Small Hive Beetle”. 

The impact of this pest can be devastating on a hive. Its larvae can burrow into wax comb, eat honey, and defecate in the honey, causing it to develop a yeasty, decaying oranges odour with a slime developing on the combs. It may cause the whole bee colony to vacate the hive!!

Video:  Small Hive Beetle

A basic understanding of the biology of a pest is necessary to better equip beekeepers with how and when to consider various strategies to control and suppress this particularly bee hive pest.

Video:  Small Hive Beetle Control Devices

There are a range of devices available that have been reported to be useful in controlling small hive beetles. This segment discusses some of these options and how to use them.

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