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Beehives vs prescribed burns!

Story of my life.

I just received a letter from Parks and Wildlife to advise me they are going to conduct a large prescribed burn, and my hives are going to be inches from the fire.

I live on the edge of a national park and my hives are pretty much next to the fence line, facing the park. Well they are not there yet but will be as soon as the nucs will be available later this year. I don’t have anywhere else on my property where I can safely place the hives. (I have to battle suspicious neighbours, passer byes, kangaroos, extreme sun, slopes and rocks. Lots of rocks… while keeping the kids sting free).

The fire might also destroy the tree that I was going to rely on to provide some afternoon shade for my hives in summer.

If they burn where they are saying they will burn, it means the fire will be less than a meter from the hives, though it should be only a ground grass fire.

Moving the hives is a challenge for me.

How much should I be worried?

If the letter doesn’t give you the date of the burn the first step is to contact then to find out the date of the burn, in all likely hood it will be a low temperature winter burn and maybe it will be all over and done with before your hives arrive. As for your proposed shade tree after the fire has passed hose down the tree to wash off ant ash off the foliage and give it a light watering every few days for 2 weeks.
A low temperature controlled burn is far better than a raging out of control bush fire so look forward to it happening soon.
If on the chance you have your hives before the burn then turn your garden hose onto a fine mist setting and set the hose up to put a water mist to the fire side of your hives. Do that and you will have no reason to worry at all.

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They don’t have a date Pete and they will burn whenever they think is suitable.

My worry is the heat from the fire so close by, literally centimetres from the hives. Plus several days of heavy smoke.

Certainly won’t be for a while now. A bit of Winter rain will stop burns for the time being.
If they do a Spring burn then I would not be too worried as it will be a cool burn.
If it’s going to be an Autumn burn next year then that will be more of a worry but it will give you time to prepare.
Your local bush fire brigade is the best people to talk with. They can advise you with much more authority than anyone on this forum


My plan was to get in touch with Parks and Wildlife and let them know. They will have fire brigade on site and hopefully they’ll keep my hives safe. Don’t know how much they will be able to micro manage the prescribed burn to suit me though.

I think the burn will be in late winter or spring.

I don’t know if anyone had any experience with fire so close to hives, and how much it will bother the bees.

I’m an ex bush fire fighter so you need to accept a few facts, they will be looking to a low temperature burn so minimal breeze and probably in the late afternoon. Conditions can change before the burn has began and it can be called off completely or additional appliances called in before the burn. Burn-offs are not a bush fire. Take my word for it and be happy about a low temp burn being put in even right up to your fence line. You won’t have a bush fire for at least a few years and even then it would be nothing compared to having no back burning at all. I’m sure if you ask them to give you a call the day before the proposed burn they will call to let you know. ok…

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Any bees in the smoke zone will head for the hive, gorge on honey, and stay inside the hive with the odd check till it is safe to go outside. Most hazard reduction burns are done in Winter to early Spring. As I said, you can help yourself by setting up a water mist which will also cut down the smoke. But if you feel over anxious the best thing you can do is to go for a drive.

The orange bit is what will burn, the arrow is location of hives.

Yes the Spring burns are not so much a worry but we have a fair share of Autumn burns which of late have been anything but controlled. We have had more than a few controlled burns which got away into uncontrolled bush fires.
Certainly controlled burns mitigate bushfires immensely and the State has a very big program every year.

I hear what you are saying, but a lot of people overly object to hazard reduction fire so the bush is left till some idiot decides to set a fire and all hall breaks loose and homes can be easily lost. As I have said, a low temperature on a calm late afternoon can be a far better option, but ignoring a build up of fuel in the bush is by far the worst option.

Don’t be at all surprised if the burn is set on the dirt road away from the houses to burn further away and the area between your houses and the road is left for a night time burn under the control of a couple of local bush fire brigades. Don’t forget to thank them for a job well done and a few jugs of cold water, they will appreciate it.

I’m not objecting for or criticising the prescribed burn. I understand their purpose well. I live in a bushfire zone, and I welcome hazard reduction burns. I’m not anxious for myself and I’m not at war with fire brigade.

However as @busso said they often jump containment lines and houses are lost. To lose my hives, fire only has to stray by 1 metre or less as there is nothing to stop it. Low temp or not, the hives are close to the ground and if it burns logs, it will certainly burn hives. In 2011, a controlled burn got out of control and 40 homes in Margaret River were lost. Fourty. It’s not a perfect world.

Bees are my livestock, and it is my duty to care.

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Winter/Spring fires are good for the environment. Summer and even Autumn burns are inevitably hotter and harder to manage so requiring more appliances, man power and extra hours spent on the site. In my time as a bush fire fighter often the biggest problem was a resident rather than managing the fire. Enough said, ok.

And as I have said anything that goes pear shaped due to unforeseen circumstances will be nothing compared to a hot summer days out of control bush fire when you could loose everything you own. 40 sounds a lot but 70+ homes in one day in the Blue Mountains in NSW was a bad day, made worse because of years of no hazard reduction.
There is not a problem in you watering down any concerns on your property, you have that right, once the burn has died out you could even water down the whole area, ok. But if I were you I would be looking forward thankfully to a hazard deduction burn.

Surely the fire break between the state forest (read bush) and your property should be enough of a buffer?
Personally I think they’re an integral part of land management around our parts. They used to burn off over the road every few years. The firerys would set up in an abandoned quarry and it was a good practice and learn assignment. This has since been stopped due to the new locals complaints and now the area is a tinderbox. I’m glad I have a 2 house buffer zone…
The last Beeinformed news letter had an article regarding the controlled burns carried out in the Jarrah forest and how it was impacting on the commercial beeks however the mitigation of bush fires was more important.


There is no buffer skeggs. All bush up to the fence line / hives is scheduled to burn.

Of course a full blown bushfire in January is much worse but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about a fire and smoke for days under the nose of the hives.

The hives will be establishing themselves in spring, building up the numbers and don’t know whether their honey stores will be sufficient.

I read that a lot of smoke can suffocate a hive and bees can abscond if they feel danger from fire.

@skeggley The buffer that Skegs is referring to is the dirt road that shows up clearly in the pic you have posted. it is a perfect continual containment line(fire break).
Of course you could be proactive and clean up and clear around the outside of you property and take precautions to help your bees thru the hazard reduction. Or you could join the masses of people that build in bush fire areas that are opposed to any efforts to reduce hazard reductions then complain when a Summer out of control bush fire happens, which it inevitably will.
Even the most one eyed greenie tree hugger would opt for a hazard reduction controlled low temperature over an out of control raging mid Summer bush fire. The reality is that in the Australian bush there is not a third option that you are hoping for. It isn’t there.

That’s a very stupid comment to make Peter. I clearly did not imply that if you bothered to read.

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I regard it as a very sensible comment, ! came across people against, or overly concerned, about hazard reduction burns, but each to their own way of coping. as an ex-bush fire fighter I guess I have come across every attitude as regards bush fires and reducing the risks of fire in the bush which is a part of the environment. As I have already said, there are precautions you can take to help on the day or you can keep out of the way and allow them to do their job faster.
My comment is based on my own personal experiences as a member of a bush fire brigade.
Interesting that you cut out the rest of the options I gave, like being proactive in your area to reduce the risk of bush fires.

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Yeah Peter we get the point and HillWallaby already stated he was not opposed to prescribed burns.
He is only concerned about his bees, and rightly so. I wouldn’t want a fire next to my colonies either.
It is my understanding that the state should be maintaining a fire break around all perimeters as land holders are required to do.

Having lived in the hills, in a bushfire zone all my life I’m not as conserved as others may be, my fear has tempered over time but what is the effect on bees? This is the question.