Honey On Fire

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It’s that time of year, at least for a large part of the world during the summer months - wildfire season.

Unfortunately, during this warm season, our part of the world is the perfect combination of vast landscapes with dry vegetation and natural (along with some not-so-natural) sources of ignition.

For the past few weeks, the fires have been on everyone’s mind, especially when almost the entire province and much of the country is coated in a thick, muggy blanket of smoke.

When, I noticed the poor air quality in the skies, my thoughts went to the bees.

Should I even open up the hives in this weather? How will this affect our colonies? What about wild bees who are directly impacted by the fires? All my questions lead me to research the affects wildfires have on honey bees and I found some interesting stuff.

When the air quality decreases, whether it be from wildfires or even air pollution, it becomes much more difficult for bees to forage because they rely entirely on smell. This time of year when clouds of smoke fill the sky along with the scent of toasting foliage, nectar and pollen aromas become extinct.

The smoke also send honey bees into panic mode. 

Think about a tool beekeepers use everyday. The smoker. And what the smoker actually does is mimic a wildfire to purposefully send some panic through the colony. When they sense a fire, which is a natural nemesis for honey bees in the wild, they start gorging themselves with honey to try to save their resources. This is the goal for the beekeeper because it keeps the bees very busy, distracting them from the giant human entering the colony, and after they are full of honey they are (hopefully) too tired to feel threatened and sting. 

This instinct of eating up their supply becomes very useful in the wild for the bees because once the fire hits, a whole hive can melt in a matter of seconds.

So my question turned to our own bees. How are they being affected?

So far, they seem to be doing just fine. We have not opened them up, thinking it would be wise to ride it out until the skies clear. We have been watching the hives every day and though they are slow, there is still some traffic and even some pollen pants coming in. Fingers crossed that this smoke lifts soon and we can take a peek inside and make sure all is well.