Friday, 17 January 2014

Keeping the beehive cool (or at least trying to)

This has been a very hot week in Melbourne - the last 4 days have been over 40 degrees celsius and not cooling down much at night.  No air-conditioning at our place means it gets pretty unpleasant inside after a few days of those sort of temperatures.  Thinking abut how best to handle the heat made me realise my usual method of shading the hive with cardboard alone wasn't going to cut it for such an extended period of time.  Luckily the Victorian Apiarist's Association Melbourne branch sent out some handy tips to members about ways to help keep their beehives cool.  Here's the method we used.

We removed the emlock and placed the cardboard directly on the hive where it will provide some shade for the side. Then on top of the cardboard we placed a polystyrene broccoli box (you can get these free from the green grocer) weighed down with a couple of bricks. We 3/4 filled the box with water and used foam floaters (polystyrene packing bits) to insulate the water from direct heat and to provide landing pads for the bees.  It'll be easy to check the level and top it up as required. We have other water sources for bees in our backyard but this setup might help the bees during this extended hot period both by insulating the top of the hive and by giving them an extra source of water.

Polystyrene box full of water and foam floats

The photo below was taken on a 43 degrees celsius day - bees were clustered outside the hive entrance.

While watering the garden on those hot evenings I noticed the bees took advantage of my activities by hanging about and gathering water from the ground and off the plants where I'd been hosing just moments before. It was also good to see that they were using the water we supplied for them. When I checked the polystyrene box I saw them perched on the foam floats drinking from the water. I also saw them drinking from the chicken waterer we always have sitting in a shady spot for them:

Apparently we have just experienced Melbourne's most intense heatwave on record. Let's hope this week is the last of it.

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