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Help, My Beehive Fell Over!

As the seasons change during the year, it can become more and more difficult to protect your hives from the weather conditions. Sometimes, things out of our control tend to happen, and as beekeepers, we would want to help our little stinger friends be the most comfortable they can possibly be.

Once you have reduced your hive for the winter and fed your bees as needed, the next thing on your agenda should be to ensure your hives are protected from the wind. Strong winds can devastate a hive, with extreme wind factors possibly wiping out a whole bee colony in hours.

If your beehive fell over, you will need to take immediate action to save your stinger friends. Stay with me as I discuss beehives falling over and just how you can use your innovative skills to fix it!

Falling Beehives

Those of you who live in wide-open areas can certainly know how much harder your furnace works to heat your home when there are heavy winds outside. You might have neighbors whose homes are blocked by trees or hedges, and if you asked them, they would probably tell you they never notice the difference.

In many cases, your hives will already be protected because you have placed them wisely, with a natural windbreak protecting them from the harsh winter winds. But, if you were unable to select a naturally protected area when you placed your hives, you will need to create an artificial windbreak.

You can make a temporary windbreaker, or you might be crafty and whip up a sturdy, permanent one. Some beekeepers recommend using hay bales, but some have noticed that it might attract mice and other hive robbers. A couple of sections of privacy fence are effective, cheap, and can be taken down easily. If you choose not to take them down, they can easily last for several years.

Windbreaker Guidelines

Whatever type of windbreaker you might choose, there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure you have a strong and effective windbreaker, protecting your dear stinger friends:

  • Make sure that your windbreak is at least 30 centimeters (1 foot) taller than the hive.
  • Place your desired windbreak 1,2 – 1,8 m (4-6 feet) behind the hive. The reason for this is that although it is the prevailing winds (potentially the most brutal) that we are trying to protect our bees from, the winds do occasionally blow from the other direction. If the windbreak is too close to the hive, some of these non-prevailing winds could be directed through the bottom of the hive. 
  • For much the same reason as stated above, it would be best if you made the top of your windbreak slightly farther from the hive than the bottom of it is. Non-prevailing winds will be directed up and over the windbreak, preventing excessive air turbulence around the hive.

The best possible windbreak you can make would be a three or four-sided block, which will block all types of winds coming from all angles, but this may not be practical or necessary.

What To Do When Your Beehive Falls Over

Wild honeybees will often build hives in hollow trees. If the tree splits and falls over, then the hive can be exposed, and exactly the same happens with artificial hives. There are, however, a few temporary things you can do fast to ensure the safety of your honey bees.

When your hive falls over, you need to run, suit up in your full beekeeping protective gear, and start picking it up as slowly and gently as you can. You don’t want to alarm your bees even more than they already are, as they will undoubtedly attack you.

When you have successfully picked up your hive, check for any visible damage. If there is damage, you will need to fix it on the spot. If there is no visual damage, inspect the inside and repeat the process. After you have inspected your hive and did hive repairs, you will need to think of a temporary fix until you can buy the supplies you need.

A simple brick on the top lid of your hive is likely to be insufficient to keep the lid from flying off in wind conditions above 50mph. A lidless hive can cause problems for your bees by introducing higher moisture levels and escaping important heat. Instead, it would be a good idea to strap the lid down with ratchet straps or securing it with duct tape.

Next, you have to make sure that the hives are on sturdy stands or on completely level ground. Entire beehives can be blown over by strong winds, especially if they are placed in higher places.

If your hive is on tall or insecure stands, you will need to move them to a dry and level place to lessen the chances of toppeling. And try to note that if you are using solid bottom boards, you need to have your hives tilting forward so that the heavy rainwater will not pool and collect on the floor of your hive.

When you have replaced your hive in a secure spot, you need to be fully aware of falling trees and tree limbs. These can be extremely problematic for beehives since they can completely crush all the equipment and kill the entire colony.

 However, this is difficult to prevent with some sort of barrier or cover because of the sheer weight of so many trees. So, if your hives are in a wooded location, you may need to move your hives temporarily.

You also need to make sure that your hive is not in low-lying areas or areas that are prone to flooding. Riverbanks can make amazing locations for beehives because of their freshwater resources, but in flooding conditions, they can wipe out an entire hive along with its colony.

Conclusion

As a beekeeper, you might feel helpless when one of your hives’ falls over. You might feel like you have done something wrong, or you may have been neglecting your hives. Do not worry. Thousands of us feel the same!

 At the end of the day, it is important to remember that things out of our control happen, and it is our work as superhero-beekeepers to rescue our bees in distress and try our best to provide them with what they need at that moment. I hope you found this helpful; it’s all about trial and error!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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