Protect Honey Bees During Extreme Weather

Updated: Jun 26


Winter and spring can be a rollercoaster of extreme weather for nearly every U.S. region. Wind, rain, floods, ice, snow, high heat, and drought are all happening, and they are all threats to honey bee colonies. Master Beekeepers Earl and Carol Hoffman have protected their honey bee hives during the annual swings of Michigan weather for more than 25 years. Following are a few of their thoughts on bracing for the impact of extreme weather.


Wind

Wind and wind chill are both environmental dangers to honey bees and their colony. It is advisable to always place colonies behind a windbreak. Look for ways to provide a buffer, such as:

  • The side of a hill if there is enough land to block wind

  • The south wall of buildings cuts the cold north wind and provides access to solar gain on those rare sunny winter days

  • The east side of deep woods can cut the wind to almost zero at ground level


Once colonies are strategically placed, the next priority is to keep the hive cover from blowing off the hive. If the wind blows over a hive and the cover is lost, the colony will soon perish. However, if a hive is knocked to the ground but the cover is still on, most times it will live. Some tactics of beekeepers to keep covers secure include:

  • Use abundant large rocks in the apiary to place weight on the hive

  • Place two small cement blocks to mark the hive status

  • Use ropes or straps to secure the hive covers


Rain

Excessive rain is not a concern for honey bee colonies, unless it will cause the apiary to flood. The axiom Earl and Carol go by is, “Wet bees die – keep the girls dry!”

  • Rain can loosen the soil and cause hives to tilt or to fall over. If hives are placed at a slight tilt forward, it will keep rain from collecting at the bottom of the board.

  • Place hives on high ground if possible. Placing hives along riverbanks or flood-prone land is ill-advised. Gullies and valleys harbor both cold damp air and rapid flooding.

  • Hive stands and pallets can protect the hive if flooding does occur


Snow

The positive of deep snow is that it can provide a nice windbreak from blizzard conditions. It is recommended to provide an upper entrance for your honey bees since ice and snow can block the hive entrance at the bottom board. There are many different ways to create an upper entrance. Some common tactics are to notch the inner cover or drill auger holes in the top box.


Drought