During these hot summer days it is very important to keep our little friends cool. Bees will always try to keep their hives at a temperature of between 32 to 36 degrees Bees can handle temperatures outside these limits, but to do so requires them to use up a lot of energy and while they are trying to keep cool they will not be making as much honey.
Once the temperature rises above 36 degrees the queen will often stop laying and in certain circumstances, if the hive gets very hot the brood could die. Occasionally, if the hive gets too hot, the bees will abscond.
In summer it is essential to give the bees adequate shade to protect them from the hot sun. Placing the bees under trees is preferable if possible; otherwise you can shield the hive with sheets of plywood, Masonite or even sheets of cardboard just to keep the hot sun off. Water is also very essential, bees use water, not only for mixing with the honey for food, but more importantly, for evaporative cooling their hive. Always make sure there is an adequate water supply available. If you
don’t provide it the bees will most likely find it in your neighbours’ swimming pool.
To assist in keeping the hives cool it is a good idea to add some upper ventilation. The easiest way to do this is to have an upper entrance below the lid which will allow hot air to escape. This can be achieved by inserting a riser under the lid or using narrow strips of timber to raise the lid slightly. Some beekeepers drill a vent hole in the top super to allow the hot air to escape; this can be blanked off when the weather cools. Hive lids, especially metal lids, can get very hot in midsummer and this heat can be transferred to the hive. It is suggested to cover the top with
something to insulate it from direct heat. Other lids can be designed with an air gap under the top to keep hive cool, or can be fitted with an insulating material such as expanded polystyrene or core flute. It is possible to buy insulated lids, which obviously have a number of benefits. Talk to your equipment supplier, or build some yourself.
Screened bottom boards also offer many advantages, not only for cooling the hive, but they also keep the small hive beetles under control.
On very hot days, whatever you do will not be very effective; on these days you will see the bees hanging off the front of the hive, which is known as bearding. Many inexperienced beekeepers think their bees are preparing to swarm, but this is not the case, it’s just the bees way of keeping cool.
You will often see bees fanning at the front of the hive, sometimes they are sending pheromone signals from their Nasonov glands to their buddies, but other times they are fanning air into the hive to cool it. Good luck with your beekeeping journey.
For more information, buy our Australian Beekeeping Manual which has everything explained in detail that you need to know for beekeeping.
Click here to check out the Australian Beekeeping Manual