Do you think they would have flown away from the smoke or would it be the same as when we smoke them?
Honey bees would most likely have made a run for it. That is how they have been programmed throughout their evolution (as their habitat used to be in trees, in forests - and forests would catch fire and burn), why we use smoke to quieten them - they gorge on honey to be ready to make an exit if the fire gets too close, so less likely to sting as they are pre-occupied with a potential life threatening occurence and will be full of food if you smoke long enough before opening the colony. I gather they might return if/when the danger passes.
The youngest house bees might have to tough it out and take their chances as the fire flashes through.
Perhaps someone would actually know what happened in this instance. Some dead bees would be inevitable and the colony may have relocated, just like an emergency 'swarm' (the queen would not have chance to slim down before leaving, would she?). I wonder, what was the state of the honey combs after the fire? -melted or intact? The paint was OK on some hives and wood is quite a good thermal insulator.
My son is working over there- been quite a worry. Will pass on your thoughts to him as he knows some of the beekeepers.
I nearly volunteered for a job as the local bee chap there had all produce on a table- he lay on a bench nearby with a straw hat over his face- and was fast asleep. Now that was what I called a good job- but maybe he is out of work now- so sad...
In 2007 24,000 hives were burnt in the fires and a further 20,000 suffered damage. There are only a few people who keep bees as a hobby, for the majority it is a sideline business to give a supplementary income. A large number of hives have been lost in the latest fires which have destroyed about 200,000 hectares of forest and farmland. About 150 homes have also been burnt.
At one stage the fire front was 50 kilometers long and out of control due to the very strong winds.
John Phipps, editor of the BKQ, described vividly a scene in the 2007 fires, similar to a pyroclastic surge from a volcano. He said that this "wave" of super-heated fire/gas came rolling down a mountain side, it had hardly any orange/yellow flames and was mostly blue and clear. This wave was traveling quite fast and incinerated anything it came into contact with, which of course gave it more energy and made it spin (horizontally) even faster. It only stopped when it reached the sea. A frightening experience!