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Which Is Better for My Bees? A Sunny Location or Shade?

As the weather warms up, a very common question is whether it is better to keep your bees in full sun or in the shade. The answer is rather simple: If you are in the northern half of the US, full sun is ideal, year-round. A few brood diseases thrive more in cooler and damper conditions, and bees tend to be a little more aggressive in the shade and start working a bit later in the day due to cooler hive temperatures. Small hive beetles also love the shade and tend to be worse in hives in full shade. A bit more complex is the southern half of the US, or areas where summer temperatures are routinely in the upper 90s and 100s for long periods of time.

In those regions, partial shade is ideal if possible during the summer months or, at the least, shaded during the heat of the day. A strong and healthy hive can typically keep itself cool even in full sun; they just have to work very hard to do so. Conversely, a weaker hive less than a deep box full of bees or with just one box total rather than two to three boxes will struggle to keep the hive cool. In those cases, shade is more critical. It is possible for weak hives or nucs to be killed by 100+-degree temperatures. A bit of shade can go a long way toward helping bees stay cooler. A beach umbrella, sunscreen, and tree shade all work well. See Moving Hives.

Listen as beekeeping expert Cameron Crane shares his experience with bees in both sunny and shaded locations.

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