When temperatures rise to miserable or dangerous levels, your bees may be at risk. Much of the country is suffering higher than normal temperatures this week, but some beekeepers are also suffering colony losses. Most of the time, bees are best able to control the temperature inside the hive themselves, but when thermostats rise above 100F (especially for prolonged periods), your bees may need your help! In extreme temperatures, your bee colonies could literally melt. Read on for tips to safely help your bees from the dangers of heatwaves.
Water is critical for cooling the hive. Worker bees collect it in their honey guts and carry it back to the hive where it is used for evaporative cooling. Make sure your bees have a water source that they like. Bees are notoriously picky about where they get their water. If you are experiencing hot weather, you should see bees on your water source. If they are not there, then, the water source is not suitable and you need to try something else. It’s best to establish a water source before the summer so, that the bees can easily find and utilize it when the temperatures get high. You can read more about establishing a water source by clicking here.
One of the simplest ways to alleviate heat in your hives is to provide shade. Simply set up an umbrella or shade tent over your hive(s) when you see hot weather predicted in your forecast.
I normally discourage beekeepers from venting hives in hot weather because this can sometimes release the scent of honey and make your colony vulnerable to robbing, but in extreme heat, this could save your colony from melted combs and overheating. The best way to vent a hive is by creating an upper entrance because heat rises. I like to drill a one-inch hole in the uppermost super. If the bees are not using this entrance, you can place a piece of screen over it so that heat can be vented out, but robbers cannot get in.
Remove Metal Roofs
Many beekeepers use metal roofs because they are more durable and often they look stylish, but metal conducts heat and this could make all the difference in a heatwave. You can help alleviate the heat inside the hive by covering your metal roof with something white (like a large storage bin lid or a piece of white corrugated sheet or better yet, trade out your metal roofs for wood ones.
Another way to help your colony stay cool is to provide insulation. Many beekeepers use insulation in winter to keep colonies warm in cold weather, but it’s also useful for keeping colonies cool in hot weather. Insulation under the roof especially will help to keep temperatures steady inside the hive, even when they have spiked outside. For that reason, I recommend adding an insulation box for vertical hives, click here to see an example of one and use code ‘GNDHoney’ to receive 15% off. If you are using a horizontal style hive, your insulation options may be more complicated, but click here to see an example of what you can do.