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I'm so sorry for all CA residence that are dealing with the devastation of the fires. I know some of you have lost everything and my heart goes out to you and your families.

What happens to a colony when forest fires smoke is so dense and long term?
There are so many bee producers within an hour of Paradise, CA. and from CBS today: Dense smoke from the fires has been smothering parts of the state with what has been described as "the dirtiest air in the world." My sister lives in San Francisco that's 3 hours away and she has very dense smoke still.
l know that when we purposely smoke a hive with a smoker, the bees respond by gorging stored honey "in case they have to leave or flea" as a natural response to a fire. Or so that's what has been traditionally taught. So do they leave?


I'm so sorry that anyone has had the experience to know the answer.
 

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The 'gorging' response is now widely held to be false. Current thinking is that when we use smoke on our hives it serves to confuse and or mask the bees' chemical communication signals. In other words, if they can't smell the alarm pheromone, they don't get alarmed.

Bees will continue to work as normal through a smoke event. If fire gets close enough to endanger the hives, I don't know if they will flee or not. I guess the locals in the fires will have to tell us of their experience.
 

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Two years ago we were in smoke from fires here in Montana and massive fires in Canada. Light levels were down and bees were not very productive. That was the concensus of those I spoke with anyway. Not a thing you can do about it. All that nitrogen, C02, nutrients freed by the fires will make for great crops next year. Greatest next year country in the world!
 

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We have dealt with a lot of smoke in BC over the last few years. General consensus, bees are not at all productive, and one really needs to keep an eye on feed levels come fall. Was quite an issue for many in the interior during the 2017 fire season, all the back roads were closed and lots of folks could not get to the colonies. There were assistance programs put in place for ranchers etc after that season, was very little uptake by beekeepers. Our provincial association had a relief fund for any beekeepers that were burned out, it didn't all get claimed.

This summer we had a serious fire season yet again. In our own area, we had a couple weeks of visibility a half mile in smoke even tho the fires were quite a distance from us. The bees were not very active during the period. Some reports of 'different' flavouring in honey this year. I know at least two folks who were in the heart of the fire areas, had honey the darkest they have ever seen come from the hives this year (beekeepers of 20 years of more), with a substantially reduced crop. I know others who were in the heart of the fire areas last year, reporting well above average honey yields this year. I find that interesting, because it's usually the 2nd year after the fires when the fireweed fleshes out fully, but, there's lots of nutrients on the ground for other vegetation in the season after a major fire.

My own experience here, during that period of heavy smoke for two weeks, I had a line of 10 nucleus colonies that had a LOT of drift, but I cant say for sure the smoke was a factor in that, coulda been a lot of reasons. Half of them declined to the point they became unviable during August. But I'll admit, I wasn't paying close attention either, had my father in end phase palliative care at that time, so we kind of ignored the bees for a couple months, had much higher priority issues to deal with.
 

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I am 2 hours from the fire but the bulk of the smoke is in our town due to the cold weather and in the valley. You can smell smoke in the air every time you step out visibility is in the 1-2 miles PM is around 400-500 until the last couple days. I went outside to check the hive couple times around noon and business as usual. Incoming pollen on some and nectar on other. Some on local bee club complained about abscond but I think it is due to the mismanagement and not the smoke.
 

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I’ve been allowed in to feed my hives for couple days now. It is business as usual for the Bees. The fire got very close to my Aparary. Thank god they’re still there.
 

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after a couple close calls here 2 of the last 3 summers i'd recommend feeding. a beek who keeps a hive on a scale said during the smoky days only a small percent (5%) of the foragers were leaving. i didn't realize it and lost several hives to starvation.
 

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Bees don't flee, though. They just burn up if the fire overtakes them. So they are not preparing to flee... Obviously bees have to breath, so that is the real concern. If smoke is so thick they cannot breath they will pass out and eventually die.
 

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Bees don't flee, though. They just burn up if the fire overtakes them.
Michael, is that something you’ve seen or based on someone else’s research or observation? I have smoked bees out of their hive when doing a removal causing the queen and the entire colony to swarm.
 

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I have tried many times to get bees to abandon their hive with a smoker and never succeeded. Maybe bees there are different. I've seen hives that burned up in a wildfire in Arizona and the bees died in the hive.
 

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When doing the three cut outs this summer, I could do a heavy smoke and they would come flooding out the top. The smoke had to fill the cavity to get that effect. I wonder if the hives Micheal knows of that burned up didn't have enough smoke stuck in the hive to cause them to flee. If you think about it, we directly pump a LOT of smoke into the hive vs. surrounding smoke happens to get into the hive. Also, where are they to run to if the entire area is so thick with smoke. Not all fires produce the type of smoke density that I flooded into the cut outs. With cut outs, they move just to the outside of the hive and can breathe normal again. No so if it is a blanket of smoke. Also, if in hive boxes, smoke rises. The smoke may not be dense enough to get into the entrance and flood the hive at ground level.
 

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>Dadant?

The brand name of the smoker? I've tried it with several and I have several. Dadant, Mann Lake, Walter T. Kelley even an A.I. Root, I think.

>...didn't have enough smoke stuck in the hive to cause them to flee. If you think about it, we directly pump a LOT of smoke into the hive vs. surrounding smoke happens to get into the hive.

Possibly. But when it gets hot and smoky, the bees are ventilating like mad...

>I could do a heavy smoke and they would come flooding out the top.

I've gotten a lot of bees to run out, but never got them to abandon the colony. I've even had them passed out on the bottom board asphyxiated and then most of them come back to life when they got fresh air.
 

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>Dadant?

The brand name of the smoker? I've tried it with several and I have several. Dadant, Mann Lake, Walter T. Kelley even an A.I. Root, I think.
Mr. Bush, I was kidding about what brand of smoker you were using. I’m confidant in your experience. Most likely I was using BeeQuick with the smoke, but it’s been several years, and I don’t remember.
 
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