AUBURN, Ala.—Tropical Storm Gordon is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast tonight. Gordon could be a tropical storm or even a low end hurricane. In either event, backyard beekeepers may notice buzzing around the hive quiets down. Like other animals, bees sense changes in their environment.
Dr. Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, said the strong sense of environmental awareness is due to a bee’s antennae and body hairs.
Environmental Factors that Influence Bees
Williams said there are many environmental factors that influence bee behavior.
“Solar radiation, temperature, wind speed and barometric pressure have tremendous influence on bee activity,” he said. “Higher temperatures generally mean bees are more active. Bees do not tend to fly with winds stronger than 15 to 20 miles per hour.”
During Hurricane Irma, bees were drove back to the hive. Williams said the bees were bearding on the outside of their hives. Bearding is a term used to describe bees gathering on the outside surface of the hive. They may gather at the entrance or hang on to the brood boxes.
Securing Backyard Hives
“Preparation for tropical storm events depends on the susceptibility of hive location,” he said. “Hives under an oak would be more susceptible to storm damage than a hive protected by a hedgerow or a fence.”
Williams said there are several things beekeepers can do to prepare the hives for high winds and heavy rainfall.
Establish a low center of gravity. Hives with pollen traps or feeders may have a precarious center of balance. Moving these additions to a hive may allow for a lower center of gravity to prevent hive toppling.
Secure hive roofs with straps. Most homeowners have straps for hauling equipment or bungee cords laying around the garage. These can be excellent tools to prevent hive roofs from flying off in high winds. Use two or three cinderblocks to prevent loss of the hive roof. A missing roof not only causes issues for the hive, but can be deadly if it were to become airborne and hit a person.
Group colonies together. In the event of strong winds, it may be beneficial to group multiple colonies together with a strap. The cluster of colonies may prove stronger than individual colonies when withstanding strong winds. Beekeepers can also use stakes or t-posts next to freestanding hives to provide extra security.
Choose a Good Initial Location
Williams said the impacts of severe weather can be reduced by choosing a hive location with minimal hazards.
“Consider the worst case scenario when choosing hive locations,” he said. “Avoid placing hives in flood-prone areas, under large trees or in wide open spaces.”
Making a wise choice early on may help prevent additional stress as a hurricane or tropical storm approaches.
Visit www.aces.edu for more information on backyard bees.
Image in story by shutterstock.com/Photografier. Featured image by shutterstock.com/santypan.