Beehive Protection – How to Maintain and Care For Your Beehive
The day you need to start your maintenance schedule for your beehive is the day you install it. Prevention, as we know, is better than cure and this is no more prevalent than in the beekeeper’s world. The end result we’re looking for here is a proactive beekeeper who works smart – not hard. Seek out a reliable routine to get you through the seasons.
Protecting Your Bees From Predators
Bees and Mice
We’ll kick off with the foe we all face – mice. What threats do mice pose to your beehive? During winter a warm hive that provides protection from the elements, and that is full of food, is too enticing to ignore. Mice will move in, eat, drink, and excrete. A bit like having teenagers in your house!
During spring and summer, your bees are out and about and can work together to drive out rodents. In winter your bees are clustered up in their combs and place warmth above driving out their new housemates. Mice will eat combs and you don’t need a university education to figure out the detrimental effects of this.
Beehive Entrance Reducer
The solution is an entrance reducer that lets the good guys in and keeps the bad guys out.
Simple design, easy to use and inexpensive, this 10 frame mouse guard from Mann Lake is just about all you need.
Mann Lake 10 Frame Mouse Guard – keeping your beehive safe from mice
Upping the ante and price considerably this Apimaye entrance reducer will sort your mice issues. It is a screened bottom board that also assists with mite reduction and ventilation.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to prepare yourself for mice to investigate your stored supers and other equipment during the winter. Keep it clean and secure and you’ll be sweet.
Beehives and Bears
The bear population explosion over recent years has been well documented (and filmed). While hunters rejoice, we beekeepers cringe. The relationship between bears and honey has been ingrained into us from early childhood. Bears are the most destructive animal to your bees and your wallet.
How do you “Bear proof” your Bees?????
Unfortunately, unless your hives are on your roof, you can’t. The best you can hope for is to create a situation that effectively deters bears.
Electric fences – the first line of defense (sorry unintended pun) in protecting your bees from these destructive predators. Here are some handy hints to know prior to installation. You’ll need:
- sturdy wooden or steel posts dug in at least two feet;
- insulators mounted on the inside of the posts (ceramic insulators are more robust than plastic);
- think about the number and spacing of your wires e.g. multiple lower wires close to the ground can deter skunks and racoons as a side benefit;
- power – reliable 12 volt system with a battery continually topped up by solar is your best bet here. Keep your components high, dry and free from vegetation;
- to ensure your electric fence is properly grounded.
Here are a few tried and tested products to get you started.
Secure your Beehive
A further way to protect your bees from predators is by strapping down your hives. Nylon straps pose little challenge for a hungry bear but opting for galvanized steel straps will certainly be a deterrent. They are stronger and give your girls a fighting chance to survive a bear attack.
Here’s a few hints and tips to get the most out of both your bees and your equipment. Let’s face some simple facts here. The happiness, honey or profit you garner from your bees doesn’t come cheap. Once you have your hive set up there are a few steps in beehive protection you can do to get the most out of what you’ve got.
Replace or repair any damage now
Your hives go through a lot in a season. The extremes of the seasons wreak havoc on hives. If you notice any warping, cracking or chipped edges you should replace or repair them as soon as possible. Cracked or split boxes are prone to being robbed by competing colonies and in turn the risk of spreading of disease is heightened. Further, termites and woodlice become a real danger to your hives if there is an easy way in.
Provide shelter if you can
The construction of a dedicated solid structure to cover your bees is the best protection for your beehives. This won’t work in every situation, especially if you relocate your hives often. But, for the hobbyist, it’s hard to beat with three main benefits:
- Your bees will be happier as they use less effort on hive temperature regulation;
- Your hives will last longer; and
- You will be happier harvesting in the shade.
In addition to this, you now have a strong and stable structure from which to erect an electric fence or other physical barrier to protect your bees from predators. The same goes here for erecting a windbreak if needs be.
A solid structure with a sturdy roof, like this Wood Gazebo from Yardistry, is plenty good enough for to provide beehive protection from the elements:
Upping the ante for those who want to also use electric fencing is the Brookdale Gazebo from Backyard Discovery with electric capabilities in the form of 120V outlets. As always, safety first, so check with your local electric contractor to ensure you’re getting the right product to suit your fencing requirements:
Beekeeping Equipment & Storage
Beyond providing the best protection for your hive as you can, it pays to consider your stored equipment. A thorough late fall clean of your equipment is a must.
You’ll need decent hive cleaning tools such as these from Kasteco:
GLOVEWORKS HD Industrial Green Nitrile Gloves – 8 mil, Latex Free, Powder Free, Diamond Texture, Disposable, Heavy Duty, Xlarge, Box of 100
You’ll need to scrape away all propolis and wax from frames and supers. Get it out of all nooks and crannies. A word of warning – this stuff is sticky. Gloves are pretty much mandatory here. You can find a number of suitable gloves online including the Industrial Green Nitrile Gloves by Gloveworks:
As an added bonus, some experienced beekeepers swear by nitrile gloves as much easier to use than traditional beekeeping gloves. Some even claim they get stung less. I’ll let you decide for yourself on that one.
After cleaning, sterilizing your frames and supers provides excellent protection for your equipment. You’ll be glad you did once spring comes!
It all starts to get a bit serious here…
Use a gas torch to lightly scorch all your surfaces to sterilize and lift all wax and propolis. You’ll need to be very careful and follow all safety instructions. The end result is clean equipment that will last longer and be more repellent to diseases and pests.
A gas torch such as this excellent Bernzomatic is a first-rate starting point to get your gear clean and protected.
Good luck! Remember – work smarter, not harder.