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Heatwave in Adelaide killed 2 hives


I wondered about yoru hive room from the other photos: how do you move around in there with so many bees on the ground and everywhere? Is there a reason you don’t have the hive entrances direct to the outdoors- but let the bees go all over the room? Do they ever start building comb on the roof? Do they ever fight?

I feel sure bees would benefit from a similar system here in the hot summers. Just not sure all the additional work and equipment would justify it- given the percentage of days over 36C is not that great. However a few more years of climate change-- maybe… I am guessing bees are very happy below that temp- but start to have to work progressively harder every degree over it.

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It seems these weather extremes are not a once off, but a sign of something more regular and more extreme to happen in the future.
So, housing our pollinators is something to consider seriously.

I noticed my colonies under a roof structure did better in the heat than the ones without roof.
Initially the roof structure was built to keep extreme rain off the hives and give the bees a bit of room to play on the landing board without getting hit by rain. It worked really well in the heat wave too, even though we only hit just under 40C here.
It’s not far off now to build some walls under that roof. We have a mud brick building on our land, a sort of meditation hall, that keeps cool in summer and warm in winter.
Thinking along those lines, building mud brick walls around the hives and leave their entrance open.
The hives I had in a row out in the sun with just shade in the afternoon struggled in the heat, the ones in dappled shade under trees were ok, but the ones under the roof were doing best.
Knowing the future will bring extremes regularly, I feel I want to come up with ideas now and slowly build stuff to protect my colonies.
Thing is, this never happened before, so we don’t have the experienced beekeepers to ask advice of.
Doug’s beehouse is an inspiration to build upon.
Mud bricks cost nothing if you have suitable soil on your land. I started making some already.



I agree with your thoughts, we could well be heading into sustained heat over longer periods. How we house our bees on the sub-tropical East coast now could be totally inadequate in just a few years time. I have been inside homes made of mud bricks with straw mixed into the mud and the temperature on a stinking hot day outside was very cool with windows and outside doors closed.
I can see that not to far into the future that here at least house building will have to change because of the climate, it would be wise for bee keepers to also consider the issue in housing their bees.



Ive said before my best colonys are full sun, easily outdoing those in the shade.
I would not put hives in the shade again and am planning to move the shaded ones.
I do have insulation in the lid and a slightly overhanging sun cover but sides get full sun for the most part and the bees have propolized the lid vents of their own accord.

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In general- that has been my own experience- up until this heatwave… I try to locate hives where they get more sun in winter and a little shade in summer- but it isn’t always possible. I have had issues with chalbrood in hives that are deeply shaded… I am now thinking that the solution is to employ shade devices during the hottest parts of the year.

Though- If I had land- i would definitely construct a beehouse out of mud-brick and/or hay bales. I would look at options for passive solar heating it during the winter months…



If you have SHB, you are very wise. SHB do much less well in sunny hives. The only problem is overheating, but I seem to recall that you have very good insulation and colour for your hive roof, so that should help a lot.

As a complete skew on this, we live in an older home, built in the 1950s. Our living room has a vaulted ceiling, which was completely uninsulated. In fact the ceiling is western red cedar planks, just 7/8" thick. The roofing felt was applied directly on top of this. :open_mouth:

About 3 years ago, we installed solar panels, and had a 5cm thick layer of foam insulation installed on the roof, with a second external plywood roofing layer over the top. The house is much warmer in winter, and much cooler in summer as a result. I am sure that the solar panels help by absorbing some of the sun’s energy, but the insulation helps year round. It is only sensible to think that bees would benefit from something similar in their hives. :blush:



You get a colony with a young naturally selected mated queen, coupled with fully drawn worker comb, it doesn’t matter whether it’s sunny or shaded, they’ll just take off, as long as there’s a honey flow. I have hives in mostly full sun, some in full shade, I’m seeing no difference, performance wise.



Never go in when bees are on the floor…they would be very dissatisfied with that. Just open the door for about 15 minutes and a small puff of smoke along the floor…they all go back from whence they came.

Each hive has an entrance through the wall to the outside…you just can’t see them in the photo. All hives have screened bottom boards…with a slot dadoed at the back of the hive bottom board that I think you believe is the entrance. This slot allows me to insert a white mite counter sheet under the brood area and also is a place to insert an oxalic acid vaporizer…something you are so lucky in not having to do yet.

Not on the roof but sometimes between the hive body and the wall on very strong hives.

I’ve had up to 18 queens laying in that inside area and have never witnessed any fighting between hives and the whole concept of “aggression” seems abated with this system…especially towards the beekeeper. I notice that they sometimes share an entrance through the wall…bees loaded down with nectar or pollen walking through the tunnel in the wall and once inside going either left or right depending on where their queen is.

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Wonderful response Webclan

In our cold climate I observed a swarm sucessfully survive our brutal temperatures in an auger hole in a grainary. The farmer called me up in the spring and said he couldn’t remove his grain from that bin because of the beehive…so I removed it and it had a small but perfect brood area…I’ll never forget it as that swarm survived -40C temperatures and would have become a powerful colony by summer. I discussed this with other beekeepers and was told that they had only seen swarms winter in full graineries…never empty ones. So the point I became to understand was that hives love a solid mass around them because it allows them to have a cushion on rapidly changing conditions…if the temperature changes too rapidly, that’s problematic.

So I think what you are proposing with mud walls will work very well. And for those that think that stress diseases like chalkbrood could be an issue because of a shade-factor, keep in mind that those hives produce a lot of heat…and will warm up that mass to help them through cooler times…like a garden brick wall radiating heat throughout the night and the plants nearby growing better…but the ventilation has to be matched. I bet any chalkbrood issues will dissappear.

I artificially can dampen temperature fluctuations inside my beehouses with heaters, ventilation fans, and just plain insulation in the walls and roof of my beehouse…so I simulate what your mud walls will be doing.

I just posted this on another forum:

Ambient temperatures tagged -47F this week in northwest Alberta…windchills were in the high -50Fs…and it looks like it will stay cool for most of February. Checked on the wintering beehouse…wireless temperature transmitters were indicating that it was +40F to +41F inside and the ventilation fan had shutdown…but now just a natural convection of warmer, moist air leaving…and it is surprising just how much moisture they do produce. All is well…

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But’s that’s the northern hemisphere…in the far north. You have the opposite challenge and am very intrigued with your project and would love to hear of the results.




Extreme weather decimates bee populations across Adelaide

(movie on the website)
Colin James, colin.james@news.com.au, The Advertiser

March 3, 2019 9:30pm

Beekeepers across Adelaide are desperately trying to revive hives as they experience the worst honey season in 30 years.

Apiarists say prolonged dry conditions and recent heatwaves — including January’s record hottest day — have combined to decimate bee populations.

They are relocating hives and trapping swarms in a bid to restore bee numbers in urban areas throughout the city.

Adelaide Bee Sanctuary founder Sandra Ullrich said there were widespread reports of hives being destroyed by last month’s excessive heat.

Ms Ullrich said bees had already been struggling across Adelaide before the city was hit by record temperatures exceeding 46C on January 23.

Two years of relatively dry conditions had left gum trees without nectar, causing bees to starve and unable to fly long distances in search of alternative food sources.

“There has been a 80 per cent decline in honey production statewide,” she said. “It’s been the worst season since 1977. I have lost 10 hives this season but there’s been a lot more for other bee keepers.”

Bees Adelaide sanctuary founder Sandra Ullrich at the Athelstone Community Garden. Picture: Colin James

Ms Ullrich said beehives were located in numerous community gardens across metropolitan Adelaide and other spots such as Adelaide Zoo. Celebrity chefs Simon Bryan and Poh Ying Liew had beehives while three had been located at Government House at the request of Governor Hieu van Le.

Ms Ullrich obtained permission from Campbelltown Council at its last meeting to install a second hive at the Athelstone Community Garden.

“It’s really important that we try to get bees into climates where there will be more temperate conditions,” she said.

“The future of beekeeping really lies in the urban environment and the experience so far is that cohabitation between humans and bees can work.”

Ms Ullrich said members of the public could help by reporting any swarms to the Adelaide Bee Sanctuary.

“We will send apiarists to catch the swarms as they will contain a queen bee,” she said. “We then take the swarms to somewhere with a hive and use them to repopulate.”

Anyone who sees a bee swarm in the metropolitan area can contact Ms Ullrich on 0412 967 991

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yep- BTW- they can also call me if they have a swarm! I am off today to do a cut out from a solenoid box. Apparently the bees only moved in the in the last month which is odd as there have been very few reports of swarms late in the season.

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