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Heatwave in Adelaide killed 2 hives




I stuffed up again. We just had the hottest day ever on record in Adelaide (or any capital city for that matter)- and it proved too much for two single brood hives. I went to check them today: both destroyed with all combs slumping down and honey dripping out of the entrance. pretty much totally destroyed- 95% bees dead. So sad! Both hives were very strong- single broods- and I was just waiting for a break in the weather to add supers to them. One I had bought back from the brink and requeened a few months ago- the other was a nice swarm I built up. Both painted white with white lids. I am an idiot and should have covered them with shadecloth- up till yesterday they had coped fine with many days over 40c. Both were together at a drier part of Adelaide- and I have a feeling the temps there must have gone beyond 47c. Now there are maybe 500 bees flying around wondering what to do. I am considering moving another hive I have at home and putting it on one of the stands after dark and hoping the lost bees will be accepted.

My own hives at home were all 100% fine- I inspected them this morning and they are great. So this was a big shock.


That is very sad! Did they have access to water?


yep- they had water right beside the hives. I always set up a water source. It was a few factors: lack of enough shade (there was some) and no supers+ large populations just nearly ready for supers. Ad of course the hottest temperature ever recorded in the history of Adelaide… Smaller colonies would have survived I feel sure. Probably two story ones too. The more I think about the more I regret not doing more to protect them from the heat. It’s a horrible thing cleaning up once gorgeous full frames of dead brood. One hive was all newly built comb- fully capped brood, loads of honey and pollen.


Hi Jack
Sorry to hear about your loss, you’re not on your Pat Malone, see the Channel 10 news video link.


i’d say it makes me feel better I wasn’t alone… but it doesn’t. Poor guy. His hives look very exposed- as were mine. I’m pretty sure of a lot of commercial beeks leave hives out in the open routinely- that might have to change. I was just thinking I bet this has happened to others- when I got a call from a lady who has had a beehive collapse down into her fireplace: exact same result. Melted combs and dead bees covered in honey. I assume your hive at Semaphore was OK? My mum’s was fine. My own hives in Croydon Park are also fine. Tomorrow I have to go see what things are like at my hills apiaries.

If climate change is real: which it demonstrably is- we can only expect more of these extremes. From now on I will be making a lot more shade covers for hives I think.


Hi Jack,
I feel your pain mate as I know you love your bees.
It’s been very hot here on Kangaroo Island and my bees at my home apiary have been struggling to cope, I have timber and poly hives that all had bearding during the 40c temps, bearding is a great way to gauge the strength of a hive.
My hives at home are in full sun till late afternoon and have many fruit trees in close proximity, all of them them were bearding, so I went and checked on my other hives about a Kilometre away to see if they were ok,
These hives were all poly and in full sun but none were bearding I can’t explain why but I guess a few degrees in temp can make a lot of difference


Look into Warre quilt tops as well. Baffled ventillation and roof insulation. Works really well in both summer and winter where it keeps the condensation down.



Hi Jack, I’ve felt similar pain & heartache. I’ve had some of those “I stuffed up again” or “I am an idiot” moments as recently as a few months ago.

We just have to learn from them & try not to let it happen again.

It does hurt:( cheers


yep- this wasn’t as bad as my first stuff up- as I have adjusted my mental attitude. I just immediately set about cleaning out the hives and dealing with the combs (thank the lord for solar melter)- then last night I moved another colony to that location. If I think about it too much it I could get discouraged.

@Rmcpb that’s a definite thing to look into ASAP- I already wanted them for winter- and I think they would have helped in the heat too. They should allow excess humidity to escape- and also provide a barrier between the hot roof and the brood. I think I’ll try and make a heap of them for all my hives. Dissecting the dead hives I noted that older brood combs stayed largely intact whilst the fresher drawn honey comb collapsed- flooding honey and setting off a chain reaction.


Me too, but only because we care about what we are doing.


Yes Jack, all survived but I had covered with shade cloth the night before, not so lucky for my composting worms as I forgot to cover my worm farm.
They all absconded through the drain tap at bottom into the collection bucket I leave for the worm pee and sous-vide themselves.
I had them for about 15 years so I’m hoping that some have survived, time will tell.


Hi Anthony, my guess is that some worms could be hiding under your worm farm or leaf litter. If you find a few survivors, they’ll rapidly multiply in cow or horse manure or grass clippings that have been soaking for a few weeks. Keep the area moist, give them a sprinkle of dolomite every now & then.


Thanks Jeff, I had a dig around today weather more kind 26C, the farm is three trays deep, you could say a brood box and two supers :bug: found a few in lower tray so maybe they will survive, I will add some cow dung as suggested.


Hey Jack, thanks for sharing. First thing I thought of was do you have insulation in the lid. I have put it in all my lids and have the tin roof painted white to cope with full sun, I’ve noticed it has greatly reduced bearding. But then I thought about it… 47°C ambient in a he shade, 10K temperature differential… Not sure even full shade would have helped too much.
You can keep those temps.


One thing I have noticed is that one and two box hives feel the heat more than three box hives. If hot weather is coming I will often pop on an extra box to allow the really hot air space to move up above the brood and honey. I then remove it when the weather moderates. That and the Warre quilts seem to work. Its a bit of fiddling but worth it IMO.



Well done Anthony. Besides cow dung, you can soak grass clippings in water for a few weeks. Then strain the loose water out to use as liquid fertilizer & give the wet grass clippings to the worms. That is what the worms in the photo I uploaded were in.


these two hives both had white painted tin covered lids- but no insulation. Though they are heavy thick lids. More shade would have helped for sure- I have a friend with hives nearby and he covered them in shadecloth a few days before. His survived- but in one super a fresh honeycomb did collapse anyway- killing some bees. I think what was fatal to mine was being in single brood boxes.


Hi Jack, yeah 47C IS hot. I don’t think I’ve every experienced that heat with my bees.

I can’t tell you what would work & what wouldn’t work from personal experience. What I can suggest is anything we can do to help the bees keep the hive cool will be a benefit. I like a solid floor with no added ventilation, except for the entrance. The more hive insulation the better. I think that added frame spacing helps. 9 frames in a 10 frame super evenly spaced, for example… Shade, of course. Wet dowels draped over the hives, the challenge would be keeping them wet. Then, how can we find a way to cool the air down that the bees are drawing into their hives?


it sure was hot I can tell you- but it’s a dry heat- quite different to your tropical conditions where 33c seems almost unbearable. As you say: anything that can be done should be done- I’ve been thinking about the wet towels- there is this type of old Australia Coolgardie Safe evaportive fridge:

something like that- a bucket on the top of the hive with hessian would be brilliant. The bees could also drink off the hession reducing the distance they have to go to bring in water for cooling. It would be realteivey easy system for home hives but difficult for remote apiaries.

During the heatwave I had my evaporative cooler running constantly and it maintained the temp at 30C in my house.

Hmmm, I can see an emerging market for a solar powered evaporative cooling box that can be placed on the top of a hive…

The two hives that died- both had solid bottoms- I am not sure- but I think it’s possible mesh bottoms would have been preferable in those conditions. At home I had two hives with mesh bottoms and they coped very well. I inspected them the day after and they were perfect. But I am not sure: if there was a hot wind I would be worried the hot air would be forced into a hive more with a mesh bottom. On the other hand- I think humidity plays a roll inside the brood box: when the bees are trying to cool the hive with water- the humidity rises and evaporative cooling becomes less and less efficient. With a solid bottom perhaps the bees find it hard to remove the excess moisture? That’s why evaporative coolers are not used much in Queensland- they don’t work well there.


I think the hot air as well as heat would penetrate the mesh floor. The thicker the floor is, the better, I think. I believe the same for cold climates.