In hot humid weather it isn’t uncommon to see bees gathered on the front of their box. This action isn’t designed to scare us, but often to the untrained eye – will!
Bees are very apt at “conditioning” the air inside their hives. As the day heats up, the volume of bees inside will raise the temperatures to an unbearable degree. In order to alleviate heat, a percentage of the population will simply move out to the front of the box. This action in itself almost instantly reduces the temperature inside.
Add to that, fanning in unison – all creating a convection of air down the front of the box into the entrance… you have a very efficient cooling system!
Give your bees some help
- Propping up the outer cover at the front just slightly to allow air flow through the inner cover will help tremendously. Be cautious not to do this with a weak colony as robbing could be invited through this opening.
- Put popsicle sticks or toothpicks under the outer cover corners. This slight lift will allow air flow for hot air to escape.
- Provide a water source nearby for your bees. They will be using a lot of water as the summer heat continues. Water is a key component in bees’ ability to keep their hives cool, and the closer this source the less they have to work to bring it back to the hive.
- Shade if possible. If you only have a few hives, don’t hesitate to erect a canopy over your hives for a few days of direct sun. They will appreciate it!
- Moving bees to a shadier location for the heat of the summer is ok. Depending on your location and the number of hives, moving your bees to shade can make a big difference in their ability to cool their hives. If moving hives a short distance (from one side of the yard to the other) – move the hive at night. Smoke the entrance and cover it with some hardware cloth or even a rag for the short trip is fine. Once to the new location, remove the travel entrance cover immediately. Leaving this in place could harm the bees by causing excessive heat buildup. Place an object such as a branch or a lawn chair directly in front of the entrance. Doing so forces the bees to reorient themselves to their new location. Also place an object such as a hive box or a block of wood at the old hive location. This gives the bees that return after the move a landing to congregate on as well as enables you to carry the object over to the new location as they build up. It takes a few days, but they do get the point eventually. If you are moving your hive "miles" away, simply follow the first steps with closing the entrance, secure the hive to the bottom board and strap the entire box (lid, box and bottom) with a ratchet strap for transporting. Open immediately after placing in the new location.
As summer heats up, the queen will slow her laying so typically your hive will maintain or even decrease in population. But, space is always a factor in beekeeping. Too much or too little. Swarm season is slowing and not likely the cause of the bearding. Staying on top of hive inspections verifying your bees space and nutritional needs will help ensure happy bees for fall.
By: Chari Elam