Keeping Your Beehives Cool

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The scorching heat of summer takes a toll on all living creatures – bees and humans too. As the mercury rises, beekeepers often find themselves looking for ways to keep their beehives cool. There are many benefits to helping bees face the challenges of a heat wave. Survival of developing brood, efficient honey production and the overall well-being of the colony depends on it.

Two apiaries with beehives cooling in partial shade.

The amount of beekeeper effort required on this type of hive management depends a bit on your climate. But, there are several effective methods and strategies you can utilize to help keep your beehives cooler and more comfortable during the sweltering heat of summer.

Strategies to Help Your Beehives Stay Cool

As beekeepers, we are responsible for doing everything within our power to have healthy, productive colonies. Often, this means that we do things to help the bees – help themselves.

Some of these ways to help cool your beehives can stay in place all year-if you live in a hot climate.

Or, if your bees are struggling with a heat wave – they many only need some temporary assistance.

  • Provide ample shade
  • Proper ventilation
  • Dependable water source
  • Supplemental Cooling

Shade Helps Cool Bees

If a beehive is located in full hot sun all day, more effort is required by the bees to regulate internal temperatures.

Placing your beehives in areas with partial shade is a simple way to help. This is only one of several things you must considered when deciding where to put a beehive.

Beekeepers who live in regions with Small Hive Beetles as pests – normally avoid hive locations with heavy shade. Bees in sunny locations do better against the beetles.

What if you have no shade or only need a temporary way to cool the bees? It is easy to create shade structures to provide some shade for the hives.

Umbrellas, canopies or even those flat shade sails can provide good protection from direct sunlight. This helps cool internal temperatures.

Special inner cover with screened holes for heat escape to cool beehive.

Cooling Ventilation

Good airflow through a hive is important for any time of year. Beekeepers often fail to understand the importance of hive ventilation – even in the Winter.

During hot weather, you can aid the colony in their ventilation efforts. Using screened bottom boards (no grid) instead of solid bottoms may help.

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Some beekeepers drill 1 inch ventilation holes in top boxes (with screen on the inside of course) to let out hot air. Upper entrances, notched inner covers or screen inner covers allow good air flow.

And one of the easiest practices – lay a couple of wooden popsicle (craft) sticks between the inner cover and outer top to increase airflow.

Honey bees gathering water from jar on a hot day

Water Source

Honey bees use water to help keep their hive cool. Be sure to place water sources near the hive. Include small rocks, floats or sandy areas to prevent drowning.

Several small water stations are good for one hive but if you have several – I would opt for a small water garden or large fountain for your honey bees to access water.

More Cooling Techniques

In very hot regions, beekeepers may implement mist systems to cool the beehives on the hottest days. Misting the hive with water in the very early morning can help slow down temperature rise.

If the outer covers of your hives are metal, painting them white may help reduce heat absorption. Another option is white plastic covers too.

If none of these appeal to you – simply laying a piece of wood over the top is an option to keep direct sun off the top.

On extreme heat days, setting a bucket of ice on top of the hive (not inside) is a practice used by some beekeepers.

Covering the top of the hive with a wet towel and let it drape down the side can be used but you will have to wet them several times during the day.

Finally a fan blowing on the hive may aid in ventilation on the hottest days.

By implementing these techniques, beekeepers can support their honey bees in thriving and maintaining a balanced hive environment

Benefits of Regulating Hive Temperatures

Controlling hive temperatures in the brood nest is required for optimal bee larva development. They will die if conditions become too hot.

Even honey production is affected when the bees have to put all their efforts into cooling the hive.

Worker bees that make honey or field foraging bees must turn their attention to collecting water or fanning air instead.

If the hive becomes too hot, the bees can experience heat stress. Stress leads to many colony problems including susceptibility to disease.

Stressed bees are not healthy and often these bees are more aggressive than normal.

FAQs

Can I use natural vegetation for shade around the hive?

Natural vegetation is a great option for shade near your hives. And, some of the taller flowering shrubs and bushes for bees can provide shade and food.

Are there any risks or considerations when using supplemental cooling techniques?

Approach your hive cooling methods with caution. Bees don’t need a lot of help unless they are dealing with temperature extremes.

Should I cool the hive during cooler summer nights as well?

In general, night temperatures are not a problem for beehive – even during the heat of summer.

Can insulating the hive help in cooling?

Insulation is used more often for protecting the beehive from extreme cold. It would be best to focus on the other methods for cooling-ventilation, water and shade.

In Conclusion

Controlling temperature inside the beehive is important for the health and productivity of the honey bee colony.

From honey production to the next generation of bees, brutal heat takes its toll on the bees. Help your honey bees thrive in the heat with methods that will enhance their natural abilities.

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4 Comments

  1. Richard Dimanin, Cornell Master Beek says:

    I have been using Apimaye & Technoset poly hives. They really help keeping hives cool in the summer & warm in the winter. Why are you against insulation in the summer? In fact, some of my beek friends in Texas use insulated hive’s & won’t go back to wood. You should try these hives before making blanket statements that insulated hives aren’t ideal during summer.

  2. Charlotte Anderson says:

    I’m sorry if my intent was not clear. I am not against using the insulated poly hives but was referring to the practice of wrapping wooden hives in insulation blankets. Not that it would not work but the other methods are easier for most beekeepers-that may not be able to afford poly hives.

  3. Tammy in Ohio says:

    Charlotte,
    We appreciate all of the information you provide. I’m not sure why people forget that “Nice Matters”. I don’t believe that any of your information was in any way derogatory towards the poly hives. I understood you were talking about wrapping hives as we do in the winter. It’s unfortunate some people have just lost human decency.

  4. Charlotte Anderson says:

    Thanks Tammy, it wasn’t anything against them. We all tend bees in different ways. What works for one doesn’t for another, in that way isn’t it a good thing that there are so many ways to do things in beekeeping? 🙂