Practical measures to take on receipt of notification of intent to spray
Partially closing up colonies
Large quantities of grass or straw are placed in front of the hives covering up and obstructing the entrances. Bees usually tear their way through it fairly quickly, but stay fussing around it rather than foraging. This is an artificially-created natural catastrophe to the bees and they tend to deal with it without building up heat and frustration.
It is also possible to “tent in” a small number of colonies with black polythene, turning day into night but not restricting air flow or the ability of bees to walk out of the hive.
Completely closing the colonies
This is fraught with danger to the bees, particularly if the colony is large, because of the risk of overheating. If you are really concerned about the possibility of your bees flying across the path of the spray you should ideally move your colonies. However, if this is not practical or possible, and you feel that completely closing the colonies until spraying is complete is the only option, you should follow the following instructions:
- Provide additional comb by placing spare supers and comb above the existing supers. Extra space must be provided to contain temperature rises.
- Place a container of water above the comb to assist with cooling. Place sponges or rags in the container to prevent the bees from drowning when they take water.
- Entrance to be completely blocked out so as not to allow light to enter.
- Place large quantities of insulation (e.g. straw) over hives to prevent sunlight from increasing the internal temperature of the colony.
- Open the hives as soon as spraying is complete. Maximum of 24 hour closure in the summer.
These precautions are aimed at keeping the temperature rise to a minimum. Unless temperature can be controlled there is a real risk of melted combs and honey and the colony drowning in a sticky mess.