• Beat the heat

    Date: 2012.07.03 | Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

    I was wondering, can the air temperature / heat index get too hot for bees?  They do have several tactics to combat the heat, but as with anything else, it can get too hot to survive.   You may notice that bees will congregate in the opening of the hive and fan their wings.  This is one of their tactics to create air flow and cool the hive.  Some beekeepers will put something like a small stick or popsicle stick under the lid to create a vent for heat to escape out the top. ( Not under the inner cover, but under the outer cover, and not a big stick because the bees still need to be able to defend the opening.)   Another thing the bees do is called “bearding” and that is when masses of bees cling to the outside of the hive in such large quantities that it actually looks like a beard.  I guess that is the equivalent to sitting on the porch for humans.  Bees also bring water into the hive, more so in hot weather, and many beekeepers have water available close by in a birdbath or something similar where the bees can get the water but not drown.  Here in the Chattahoochee Valley, we have a warm climate, and many will take this heat index into consideration when they place their hives.  Afternoon shade, or partial shade can make a huge difference in temperature inside the hive.  I have located most of my hives near deciduous trees that have high overhanging branches.  That means they are partially shaded in the summer and not in the winter because the leaves will fall.  I avoid cement when placing a hive.  Cement retains and also radiates heat.  I’m sure you have seen heat waves coming off of the pavement.  So, a hive that is near a cement wall or on a cement slab will be much hotter in the afternoon sun.  High grass around the hive can also inhibit air flow.  Why are most hives painted white?  To reflect heat.  So, how much heat can a hive of bees tolerate?  As you can see, not only are there a lot of factors to consider like location, water supply and venting (and I’m sure more things I’m forgetting right now)… but also, there is a big difference between tolerating and thriving.  My hives have survived through this past week of over 100 degree weather, but I doubt they are thriving.  I have read that bees become “stressed” at anything over 98 degrees.   I interpret “stressed” as being unproductive.  So, you should evaluate your own situation.  Do you have water available close by?  Are your hives in direct afternoon sun or near cement?  If so, you should consider venting in these high temperatures.  Cut any high grass that may reduce the air flow.  Then, get a tall glass of iced tea, sweetened with honey of course, and sit on the porch.