Best Weather Conditions for a Beehive Inspection
Inspecting beehives is important to know how honeybee colonies are faring. The best weather conditions for a beehive inspection allow for safe inspection. In bad weather conditions, you risk causing damage to the beehive and the health of the honeybee colony. Consider various weather conditions when scheduling and going out on a beehive inspection. The important conditions to consider include rainfall, snowfall, and environmental temperatures. Beekeepers today have various technologies they use to check the suitability of weather conditions for beehive inspections. These tools compare prevailing weather conditions against baseline values and give you recommendations on whether to carry out the inspection or not.
Weather Conditions Influencing Beehive Inspections
Beehives hold very carefully controlled micro-environments. Honeybees take care of making sure that every factor of the environment is at optimum levels. They do this using a combination of tactics. In a beehive inspection, opening up the beehive causes disruption of this microenvironment. It leaves the honeybee colony with the job of working to return the environment inside the beehive back to its optimal state.
In some cases, when you carry out a beehive inspection in poor weather conditions, the bees have a lot of work to do and may get overwhelmed. In worse situations, your opening up of the beehive has direct effects on the honeybee colony. One such adverse effect is when you cause chilled brood. This is brood exposed to very cold temperatures that it dies. It sets back the honeybee colony many days of work and ultimately leads to a dangerous drop in the population of bees in the beehive. The honeybee population in a colony affects the ability of the colony to forage for food, produce beehive products, and defending the beehive from intruders and predators.
Important weather factors to consider in relation to beehive inspections are rainfall, snowfall, wind speed, ambient temperature, cloud cover, and humidity. Their best baseline values and impact in beekeeping are discussed below;
It is best that you inspect beehives when there is no rain. In a beehive, dryness is very important. Even the humidity is carefully controlled by honeybees. Rain is moisture and when it enters the beehive, it can cause many problems. First, it wets the beehive components and bees too. This wetness leads to subsequent warping of some beehive components, causing others to not work as expected and making bees inactive.
Rain is often cold and will cause chilled brood if it hits brood frames. In a beehive inspection, one of the worst things you can do is allow rain to enter the beehive. You could argue that you can cover the beehive to prevent direct rainfall into the beehive Even then, consider how cold the temperatures would be, and the risk you will be taking in doing such a thing.
Rainwater causes unsealing of propolis seals in the beehive. It also causes dilution of unsealed honey in the beehive. If there is rain when you want to go on a beehive inspection, just wait for the rain to end and then evaluate the weather.
In the cold season of winter, snowfall is experienced. Snow is water that freezes in the atmosphere and falls back onto the earth’s surface in form of light snowflakes. Due to the fact that snow is frozen water, it is very cold. This means that during snowy weather, bees are cold and do not venture out of the beehive. They will be hunkered down, doing their best to keep the beehive warm enough for their survival.
Honeybee colonies in snowing weather consume honey stored in the beehive. They only take short flights out of the beehive when there is no snowfall to release their feces outside the beehive. Carrying out a beehive in the cold of snowy weather and possibly letting some snow into the beehive is very dangerous for the honeybee colony.
Snow in the beehive causes everything to get very cold. Anything it touches gets cold and wet. If it comes into contact with honeybees, they are likely to die or get very cold such that they become useless in the beehive until they are warm again. The contribution of such inactive bees will be missed and can be lethal for the colony if the number of inactive bees is large.
In snowy weather, you should avoid carrying out a beehive inspection. Wait for the snowfall to end and the day to warm up a little. Even in the coldest weeks of winter, there are days when there is no snowfall and the sun comes out. Wait for such a day to carry out your beehive inspection.
Honeybees maintain a generally warm environment in the beehive. They do this by either cooling or heating the beehive. Any opening of the beehive alters the temperature inside the beehive. It goes without saying that cold environmental temperatures are worse than warm or hot temperatures. You had better inspect the beehive when ambient environmental temperatures are higher than those in the beehive than when the temperatures are colder than in the beehive.
Bees operate in a temperature range of between 500F (100C) and 1000F (380C). At 500F, they cannot fly, and at 1000F they are also known to not venture out of the beehive. On average, bees keep their beehive temperature at 930F in the brood area, with the rest of the beehive being at roughly 950F (350C). In winter, a healthy honeybee cluster has a temperature of 810F (270C) at its core and 480F (90C) at its outer sections.
It is best to have your beehive inspection when the ambient temperature is between 720F (22.220C) and 1000F (380C). In winter, wait for ambient temperatures to be at least 600F (15.560C).
Windy weather conditions are not good for inspecting beehives. In windy conditions, bees are not able to fly very well. They, therefore, tend to remain inside the beehive. Wind also aggravates honeybees – probably due to the disappointment of having to remain in the beehive while they could be out foraging for supplies.
Bees fly at a speed of about 15 MPH (24.14 KPH). As a general rule of thumb, any wind speed above that is too much. Even then, you may carry out a beehive inspection in faster wind up to a limit. If you feel the slightest concern that the beehive will be cooled too much by the wind, leave the inspection for a later time or day.
When it is windy, you will encounter a full beehive during your inspection. This means that the bees will be many and may want to sting you. They fly poorly as they come to sting you and may drift into nearby beehives. The overall effect of this may be many aggravated beehives as each respective honeybee colony thinks that the honeybees straying into its beehive are on a robbing mission.
The amount of water vapor or moisture in the air is called humidity. It is a factor of the beehive microclimate. Humidity influences honey production by affecting how fast water evaporates from raw honey to reach the required moisture levels in the honey. Uncapped honey cells you find in a beehive contain honey that still has too much water in it. High humidity in beehives allows the growth of fungi and some bacteria too. These have negative effects on the long-term health of the honeybee colony.
Honeybees keep the beehive environment with a humidity level of 60%. When there is high humidity in the beehive, honeybees drive fresh air from outside to balance out humidity to the required level. If the rare event that the air in the beehive is too dry, some worker bees will bring water into the beehive and allow it to evaporate into the air in the beehive.
A beehive inspection when the ambient humidity outside the beehive is too high will cause the beehive to have a rise in humidity. In a similar manner, inspecting the beehive when the humidity outside the beehive is low causes the humidity in the beehive to fall. When going for a beehive inspection, do your best to carry out the inspection when ambient humidity matches or is close to the humidity of the beehive.
6. Cloud cover
Clear skies are great for beehive inspections. They allow honeybees to be out of the beehive foraging for different supplies. Cloudy weather is noted to cause bees to be generally aggravated. Too much cloud cover in a beehive inspection can work in concert with other factors and cause negative effects in the beehive. A combination of cloud cover and wind can lead to chilling the beehive and brood. Aim to have your beehive inspections when there is little cloud cover for best results.
How Do Honeybees Control Beehive Temperatures?
When it is hot, some honeybees leave the inside of the beehive and cluster under it. This is called bearding. It creates space in the beehive for other hive cooling activities and also causes fewer bees to be in the beehive; therefore less heat generation in the beehive. You will then notice honeybees standing at beehive entrances and beating their wings without flying off. They do this to direct air currents into the beehive. Other honeybees start bringing water into the beehive and squirting it onto surfaces. The water absorbs heat in the beehive and turns into vapor. The vapor is then driven out of the beehive by the fresh air circulated into the beehive by the bees at beehive openings. As it leaves the beehive, this water vapor takes with it the absorbed heat. This results in the overall cooling of the beehive.
For warming the beehive, bees will rapidly vibrate their flight muscles. It may result in the wings beating or not. The muscles involved get warm, and this heat is transferred into the beehive environment. They also ball up into a somewhat rounded mass called a cluster so that the core is warmer than the outer sections of the ball. Those inside the core can keep carrying out beehive maintenance activities. The bees in the outer sections of this cluster keep warming the rest of the beehive. Older worker bees are the ones often carrying out this function. They take turns in the outer and inner sections of the cluster. To effectively take part in warming the beehive, worker bees eat honey stored in the beehive. Heating the beehive is energy-intensive and tiring. It wears out honeybees, so they die faster.
How CheckInspect can be Used to Determine if Weather Conditions are Suitable for a Beehive Inspection
CheckInspect is a software tool for checking weather conditions and determining if they allow for safe beehive inspection. It gives recommendations on whether you can go out to inspect your beehive or not.
With CheckInspect you enter the location of your apiary and then wait for its recommendations. The software has inbuilt default baseline values for the weather conditions influencing beehive inspection. It fetches weather forecasts for the location you enter and compares them against the inbuilt defaults. CheckInspect then gives you results in form of recommendations on whether you can go inspecting your beehives.
This software is accurate and gives an excellent breakdown of the results. Its results are broken into three-hour sections for the day. You are therefore able to choose the best time to go on a beehive inspection. CheckInspect gives you three types of results; optimal, viable, and inadvisable.
- With optimal conditions, you are free to go inspecting beehives with no worries.
- Viable conditions are those in which you can inspect the beehive if it is very much necessary. When it is a matter of an emergency, you should wait for a time when conditions are optimal.
- Inadvisable results in the CheckInspect software are when you should definitely not go inspecting beehives. If you do, you are sure to cause a problem for the honeybee colonies. When you get an ‘inadvisable’ result with CheckInspect, kindly wait for a time when conditions are viable or optimal for your beehive inspection.
CheckInspect is a tool within the BeeKeepPal apiary management software. It is made and availed to beekeepers by BeeKeepClub. Use it for safe beehive inspections in your beekeeping operation. It is accessible via the internet. Both beginner and experienced beekeepers are able to use CheckInspect without any difficulties.
Weather conditions influence beehive inspections. Carrying out an inspection in wrong weather conditions results in losses you could have avoided. Effects of inspections in unsuitable weather conditions such as chilled brood can be devastating to honeybee colonies. In the worst cases, the honeybee colony absconds and settles elsewhere. If this happens in cold seasons such as winter, the colony has very little chance of surviving. Tools for checking the suitability of weather conditions for beehive inspections make your inspections safer for bees. CheckInspect is one of these tools. It is reliable and very accurate. Use this article to improve your timing for when there are best weather conditions for a beehive inspection.