Creating a Windbreak
Once you've reduced your hive for winter and fed your bees as needed, the next thing you must do is to make sure that it's protected from the wind. The wind can absolutely devastate a hive, with extreme wind chill factors possibly wiping out a bee colony in a matter of hours. Those of you who live in wide open areas know how much harder your furnace works to heat your home when it's really windy outside. You may have neighbors whose homes are blocked by evergreens or dense forest, and if you asked them, I bet they'd tell you that they haven't noticed any difference in home heating during periods of high winds. It just makes a huge difference!
In many cases, your hives are already protected because you've placed them wisely, with a natural windbreak protecting them from the prevailing winter winds. But if, when you placed your hives, you were not able to select a naturally protected area, you'll need to create an (at least temporary) artificial windbreak. Some folks advocate using hay bales, others claim that they attract mice. Personally, I think that a couple sections of privacy fence are practical and effective. They are inexpensive, can be set up and taken down (if desired) quite easily, and will last for several years. Whatever you choose, be sure to follow these few simple guidelines:
- Make sure your windbreak is at least one foot taller than the hive.
- Place the windbreak 4-6 feet behind the hive. The reason for this is that although it's the prevailing winds (potentially the most brutal) that we're trying to protect from, the winds do occasionally blow from the other direction(s). If the windbreak is too close to the hive, some of these non-prevailing winds could actually be directed up through the screened bottom of the hive.
- For much the same reason as stated above, make the top of your windbreak slightly farther from the hive than the bottom of it is. Non-prevailing winds will be directed up and over the windbreak, preventing excessive air turbulence around the hive.
The ultimate windbreak would be three or four sided and block wind from all directions, but this may not be necessary or practical.