Have you ever wondered why your bees do not produce honey whenever they get too hot? Or you are concerned they might die when the heat gets out of hand. In this article we’ll explore these topics and many more relating to how heat can effect bees. So without further ado lets dive in.
So can bees die from heat? No, bees do not die when it gets too hot for them, just like humans they also try their best to adapt to the situation. For instance, if a hive becomes too hot then a portion of the hives bees will attempt to cool the hive using several techniques including flapping their wings to create airflow and regurgitating water into the hives hottest areas to cool it down.
Keep reading and we’ll dive deeper into how bees cope with heat, how humans can help bees when there is heat and many more topics. Then let us take this journey into the world of BEES together.
How Do Bees Cope With Heat?
Whenever the ambient temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the internal temperature of the bee’s hive tends to rise up to unbearable levels. The larger the hive and the population of the bees, the more susceptible to high temperatures they can be. This would force the bees to move out of the hive and form a cluster outside, this is an instinctual technique they use to escape from the heat and try to remain cool.
When there are lots of immature bees (brood) and busy bees in the hive, everywhere tends to heat up. The bees priority is to protect the brood from getting too hot. To reduce the temperature of the hive bees typically have 2 methods of cooling the hive down.
As water evaporates it has a cooling effect. Just like with animals sweating to cool their bodies down, bees will use this process to cool their hives. worker bees will fly away and collect tiny amounts of water and then return to the hive, at which point they essentially spit on the hotter areas to have a cooling effect. Multiply this thousands of times and a decent amount of water can be dumped on a hive during a hot day (more on this later).
Flapping their wings
Just like a human would use a desk fan to cool themselves down on a hot summers day, bees employ a similar technique. Workers will stand at the entrance of the hive and fan cooler air into the entrance of the hive. This circulation helps regulate the temperature of the hive and, if necessary, more bees can fan the hive depending on how hot the ambient temperature is.
Most times, this is usually done by the honeybees, just to keep the inside of the hive from overheating and then killing the immature bees (brood), and this also helps in regulation of the brood nest temperature.
How You Can Help Bees When It Is Hot
When there is heat, the importance of water to bees cannot be emphasized enough. Provision of ample water and good ventilation for a hive is quite important. On a particularly hot day, bees use an impressive amount of water per day.
A full sized colony of bees will, at least, make use of a quart a day and at most a gallon a day. This means if you have 20 colonies, be prepared to use 20 gallons a day and about 140 gallons a week.
List on How to Help Bees when the Heat becomes Unbearable
- Ensure you provide enough water: Bees need water throughout the year, but it is much more important during the heat of the summer. You can also set up bee watering stations for the bees to make use of.
- Provision of appropriate ventilation by making use of either a screened bottom board, a slatted rack or slatted bottom board: Though provision of adequate water would keep the temperature low, but it would be quite difficult to keep the nectar dry so the bees have to fan more using their wings. Instead of making them use a lot of energy in fanning, you can just provide appropriate ventilation.
- You can then place the hive where there is some shade in the afternoon: When setting up your hives, you need to select an area with some shade, which would protect them from the hot temperature in the afternoon.
You should also be careful about putting your beehives in areas where their flight could be obstructed or an area which is quite populated.
- You can reduce the entrance to the hive, but provide alternative entrance in the upper boxes: If you make use of an entrance reducer, you need to remove it regularly to allow for more inflow of air and less congestion of stale air.
- Always leave enough space in the hive to increase air circulation: Never allow the hive get overcrowded, most beekeepers use one less frame, which means a 10-frame box would have 9. This allows for airflow and the bees might just build another comb in the empty areas.
- You can paint your beehive white and make use of reflective metallic outer covers to reflect the heat away. If you have been able to paint the hive with white and put the bees where they can get some shade, that should be enough to help reduce the temperature.
The function of the Queen Bee and Forager Bees when it is Hot
The queen bee would stop laying when it is hot and would try to bring water into the hive for the immature bees. The bees would get water from outside the hive, and then spit it into the hive to create a cooler temperature inside.
Apart from this, the bees also seal any cracks in the hive with propolis and then beat their wings repeatedly just to keep the temperature of the hive cooler.
While the forager bees are out of the hive searching for; pollen, water and nectar, some bees would take the position of wing beating and it is their duty to beat their wings and circulate the air to reduce the temperature further.
How to identify Heat Signature among Bees
- Clusters outside the hive: When there is heat, the act of hanging out in clusters outside the beehive is called bearding and this is a good sign that the hive is gradually heating up. Though this does not mean there is trouble, it could become a big deal if not properly taken care of.
When you notice this, act quickly to prevent the brood from dying. The bees would rather move outside instead of working to lower the temperature of the hive.
- The absence of Queen Bee: If you are also carrying out your regular inspection, and you notice the queen bee has stopped laying, you need to find her immediately. If you discover she is not dead, but not just laying you can also assume she is taking a break from the heat in the hive.
- Melted Honey or Wax: Though this is not a common heat symptom, it is quite possible if the temperature is above 100 degrees constantly for days. This could put you at risk of losing the whole hive due to the excessive and prolonged heat.
How do I get the necessary amount of water for my hive?
Most people ask this question a lot, and the answer would always remain the same. You can make use of a pond, and if you do not have one, you can establish a small fishpond for this reason. Also, you would need automatic fillers and you would also have to be able to disable them during winter.
However, if that is not possible you can also get a self-filling livestock watering device. This would not go dry because there is a valve which turns on immediately when the water level falls below a particular point. You would also need a rigid PVC pipe, not a flexible hose because it works better. Though quite difficult, it is possible.
How would I deal with Varroa or small hive beetles?
This is also another common question. Even though Varroa and these beetles hate the sun, you cannot compromise the safety of you beehive because of them. I would advise you to give your bees that afternoon shade regardless of the beetles.
Some beekeepers even offset supers on the side of the hive which leaves an inch gap and allows hot air to pass through and not remain in there until the air can escape through the top of the stacks.
Apart from heat reduction, what are the other benefits of good ventilation?
Good ventilation helps with honey hydration. Your bees would love to dehydrate all the honey they bring in, and if it is warm, the air would not escape easily, this would take more bees fanning to get it dry, and if it is not dry there would be less room to store more nectar.
How do honeybees help reduce heat level?
Honeybees also have their own job when it comes to heat reduction. They would collect water which they bring back to the hive and use to cool inner spaces. This is quite similar to sweating in the human body. The process is called evaporative cooling. Once the water evaporates, the heat dissipates lowering temperature.
The worker bees would then spend the whole day fanning the water delivered by the honeybee to increase the rate of evaporation and circulate air.
This should be enough details to guide you regarding bees and heat but do check out the other articles in this site for more related information.