Beehives and Hurricanes – Not What You Think

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Beehives and hurricanes do not mix. That is obvious to everybody. But, when hurricane Sandy hit the city of New York, they were mixed. It caused less damage to the beehives of NY than you might expect. This is probably because they would mostly be city hives that are to some degree sheltered from the elements by the building around them.

An article on onearth.org surprised me today.

“Big storms generally don’t faze honeybees. When temperatures drop or rise, when wind wails, or when rain falls in sheets, bees simply hunker down in their hives, huddle up, and self-regulate. And so during Hurricane Sandy, bees in New York City’s inland areas abided. The apiaries of East New York Farm survived (with extra weights set atop their hives), as did those of Crown Heights’”

beehive strapped down 225x300 Beehives and Hurricanes Not What You Think

Beehive Strapped Down

I would have thought that Hurricane Sandy would have done more damage to the bees in NY. After all  it the wind can knock trees and buildings it could surely knock a simple beehive. I certainly would not have thought that putting “extra weight” on a hive would hurricane-proof it. I know that if the hive was on low land it would be subject to flooding. That’s not what I am talking about. The wind. The wind would surely have swatted the hives away with the greatest of ease with or without the extra weights. Especially since many hives are not built to withstand any strong wind, never mind a hurricane. In most hives the supers are simply laid on top of each other without anything holding them together. There usually is no need for anything to hold the layers together.

Come the winter many beekeepers anchor their hives to the ground by tieing a rope or strap around the hive from top to bottom and securing this to a solidly immovable object on the ground under the hive, e.g. embedded concrete or large sunken metal or wooden pegs. This would serve two purposes. One, it would keep the layers of the hive together and two it would stop the hive from blowing away. But, this would only work if the hive wad not hit by wind-blown debris. And as we all know it is the debris carried by a hurricane that does the real damage.

Beehives and Hurricanes

Of course, it could be argued that, if we can’t save our own homes from a hurricane, how will we be able to save a beehive. But, that is no reason to abandon the bees to their fate without trying. I am for instance surprised that the Brooklyn Grange farm did not move their bees to high ground considering that they would have known that they would be flooded since they were right beside the water and the storm surge was almost guaranteed to flood the area. I suppose they must have had so much to do that they could not get around to them or just forgot. And given the right conditions bees recover more quickly than many other elements on a farm.

The fact that most of the flowers in the NY area have either been blown away or damaged should have little impact on the bees at this time of the year since they will already have gethered their winter food and will be happily eating that for several months yet. As long as they have gathered enough and there is not an extended winter, they should be ok on that score.

Had I been living in the New York area, it might have been different, but I have to admit that I never once thought about the bees when I was following the weather reports on TV. So, I can not criticize anyone who forgot to move their bees. All I am saying it that given the importance of the honey bees to mankind and the environment and that they are declining in numbers for a variety of reasons, it is a real pity that any of them are lost.

Beehives and hurricanes

Beehives and hurricanes

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