For bees living near the equator, dry and rainy seasons shape the bees’ year. The month of June sees the beginning of a four month rainy season in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region. A bee hive must be able to protect the bees from the elements. The hive must be designed and mounted so that it is protected from rain. We examine each of the three Ethiopian bee hives to see if they are suitable in the rainy season. Traditional hives, though often covered with mud and dung, are usually wrapped with banana leaves, effectively shedding rain. Modern bee hives have a solid cover, making them quite rain proof. Only transitional hives, also known as top bar hives are vulnerable to rainy season problems. Traditional hives are mounted in trees, where they serve as effective swarm catchers. Some traditional hives are mounted on the walls of farmers’ houses, protected from rain by the overhanging thatch or metal roof. Modern and transitional bee hives are mounted on stands in the open. All three types of bee hives are at times mounted on stands with a covered roof as in today’s photo, which shows from left to right a traditional hive, transitional hive, and modern Zander bee hive. The roof above the hives provides for good rain protection as well as shade from Africa’s tropical sun. The space above the hives allows for good air circulation.
Bees in transitional hives are most vulnerable to rain. Top bars are usually covered with some protective material. If the covering is a simple water resistant top, the hive is well protected. However, it is a common practice in Ethiopia to cover transitional top bar hives with a heavy layer of green leaves during the rainy season. While this traditional practice is meant to protect the hive from rainfall, it tends to hold moisture in and around the hive. The moisture adds to the development of chalkbrood, a fungal disease commonly afflicting Ethiopian bee colonies.--Richard