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Working Bees in the Heat

  1. Keeping Yourself Cool

  2. Keeping Your Bees Cool

The Heat is On! I don’t have to tell you that, do I? You’d think a person would “acclimate” to the heat, but – me, not so much – probably has a lot to do with age…not that I’m old! Heat is a BIG deal, not only for us, but also for our bees! The goal today is to address heat and both the bee and beekeeper– so sit back, have a cold glass of iced tea and enjoy! This past week and the upcoming weeks, we’re doing what a lot of beekeepers do this time of year ~ pulling supers and extracting our bountiful honey crop. This is all well and good except when it’s 98˚ + 100% humidity = HOT ~ especially in a bee suit!

Over the years we’ve developed a huge appreciation for a good quality “ventilated” bee suit. Although ventilated suits can be heavier, the waffle fabric's ability to allow air flow is a huge deal maker for me. Those of you who have worn both cotton and vented may agree. Bonus feature – I don’t seem to get as many bee stings through the vented suit as opposed to cotton. Plus, I can wear shorts and a lightweight shirt and be even cooler! Win – Win!

Staying hydrated – Did you know you can drink water “through” your veil? You bet you can! I’ll never forget the day I saw a tenured beekeeper do this – I about fell over wondering why this wasn’t #1 in the book of learning beekeeping – I mean really…why didn’t someone tell me? All these years I was about to melt waiting until we finished working bees to get a drink of cold water… my goodness!

 It’s very, VERY important to stay hydrated in this heat. One of the main components in hydration is to go beyond just water and to include Electrolytes. We often think these need to be in the form of a “store bought” drink but I’ve found you can make your bottled water “Electrolyte-ified” right at home; CLICK HERE for a link to do just that – plus it tastes wonderfully!

Please pay special attention to the key indicators of each, exhaustion and stroke. As beekeepers, we are pushing ourselves in the bee yard. Sometimes we don’t realize how hot we’re actually getting until suddenly, we feel bad. The question is, “How bad are you feeling?” As you can see – it matters! Knowing where you are on this scale is important to how you react and treat your condition effectively. The diagram inspires me to suggest you take a “bee buddy” with you in the bee yard during these extremely hot months (July and August) Having someone with you can make a huge difference in some situations where help is needed and you aren’t able to help yourself. Plus – it’s always more fun to share the joy of beekeeping with others if you can!

Bee Proactive – Taking special care to keep cool with products such as “cool rags” can go a long way to keeping your body temperature down when the mercury hits the upper 90’s! Also, work your bees in the morning. This time of year it gets daylight around 6:00 am, so consider being in the bee yard by 9:00 am while it’s cooler and the sun isn’t beating down on you. Yes – you’ll find a few more bees home while you’re working the hive in the morning, but not enough to make a big difference.

Keeping the Bees Cool

You’ve done a fantastic job of keeping your bees healthy and growing this year and for that you have hive boxes bursting with bees! Not a bad problem to have, right? We know bees are incredible creatures that adapt to various temperature conditions with great skill, but how do they actually do that? Honey bees have 4 wings and the ability to “uncouple” these wings from their bodies, allowing them to move their wings nearly at flight speed 11,400 times per minute while inside the hive! When a colony needs to “relieve some heat” from inside their box, a number of bees will exit and reside outside on the face of the box. In this group you’ll often see the bees in unison uncouple their wings and begin a concerted effort forcing wind through the entrance by creating a “vortex.” Incredible isn’t it?! Add a vent for your bees – As the temperatures rise outside, we will often add a vent for our hives to give them a little help. This isn’t high tech – a popsicle stick, toothpick or Ventilation clip inserted up under the corners of the lid will do a great job of venting the hive. Just that little amount of space allows heat to escape as well as providing cross ventilation. It is also recommended to take out the tray from under a screened bottom board and remove entrance reducers if you have them. This will really help your bees from having to work so hard to keep their hive cooler.


Water Sources – As the Weather heats up, it seems like the rain slows down, making the term “dearth” the word of the day. Water is THE MOST important resource you can ensure for your bees right now! Not only will they use it to cool the hive, but also to thin honey so they can continue to feed the babies after nectar sources have dried up. Watering your bees doesn’t have to be a project. Keeping a water source such as a small stock tank or a smaller vessel with floating objects in it, will stop the bees from having to travel too far to gather this resource.

Remember – The longevity of bees is directly related to the amount of work they do. The harder they work, the quicker they wear out! Keeping resources close by will be your gift to them and they will thank you for it in healthy productivity!

By Chari Elam

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