Beekeeping is not only a very popular hobby for countless individuals, but it is also a moneymaker for many people. Although it is relatively easy to keep bees, there are a few things that adversely affect a hive. Fluctuations in temperature being one of them. Because of this, a question often asked is, ‘how do I know if my bees are too hot?’
Correct Temperature for Bees
It is especially important that your beehive does not get too hot or too cold. Furthermore, you should make sure that your hive is never placed in direct midday sun during the warmer summer months as this could lead to overheating. Ensuring the right temperature in the hive is critical to the health of your bees as well as to the quality of the honey they produce.
Bees work to maintain a core temperature of around 95F within the hive. If it gets too hot, they fan their wings to ventilate the hive. If the hive continues getting warmer, such as it would if it were placed in direct sunlight, the bees would have to work harder than usual to try to keep it cool. This could result in them becoming extremely fatigued. If the hive is above 95F for any length of time, the brood will start to die.
Is Your Hive Too Hot?
How do you know if your bees are too hot? One of the surest ways to know that the hive is warm is when you see bees hanging around in groups outside. If they are outside in clumps, it can be a sign that it is too warm inside for them; however, this means that they are not working to lower the internal temperature of the hive. At this stage, the bees will stop producing honey and the queen will stop laying eggs.
You will need to be regularly monitoring your hive, more so in the summer months, to ensure that the bees are all working as they should be. If you see the queen is lethargic and not laying eggs, you can probably assume that it is too hot for her.
Another sign that the hive is too hot is honey or wax that has melted and is dripping from the hive. Although this is a rare occurrence, it can happen during very warm summers and where the hive is getting no shade at all. If this happens, there is the very real risk of the entire colony dying, so it is important that you act as soon as possible.
What to do if Your Hive Gets Too Hot
It is always best to prevent your hive from becoming too hot if you can. To this end, you should look for an area that is both protected from the midday sun and that has some level of shelter from wind and rain. Having said that, you will have to make sure that the flight path of your bees is not blocked. An area that has afternoon shade is the best location as this will prevent the hive from overheating.
If you are worried that the sun is going to be a problem, you could always paint your hive white as this helps reflect sunlight and help keep it cooler. However, if you do this you will need to fully air the hive and allow it to dry completely before introducing your bees. Bees do not like the smell of chemicals and if they detect a strong odor, they may abscond.
To make sure the hive is getting enough ventilation during the summer, you should consider buying screened bottom boards. This allows more air to enter and reduce the work required on the part of the bees in keeping the hive sufficiently ventilated.
Some beekeepers will raise the roof of the hive slightly with shims, while others will go for screened inner covers. How you choose to ventilate the hive is up to you. Do note though that if you have chosen to raise the roof with shims, it is important to remove them during late summer when foraging options decrease as this is when robbing of the hive is more likely.
Another way to keep the hive cooler is to remove a frame. This means using one less frame than your hive has the capacity for as this will ensure that the hive does not become too crowded.
It is extremely important to make sure that your beehive does not get too hot as this can result in the death of the entire colony. Signs of a hive that is too hot include bees gathering in clumps outside and, in extremely warm temperatures, wax or honey dripping from the hive.
Preventing your hive from overheating is something you can do by choosing the correct location, but you can also help by increasing ventilation and removing a frame to ensure the hive does not get overcrowded.