Even the Australian summer is too hot for the bees. If you think 40 degree Celsius is too hot, just imagine what it is like inside the beehive! Summer beekeeping management includes helping the bees manage the beehive during extreme heat conditions. Honey bees maintain the temperature of the brood box between 32 to 35 degree Celsius.
When it is too hot, the hive can overheat. Extreme heat can melt beeswax and kill brood. Both of these can cause the failure of a beehive. Here are some things you can do to prevent the hive from overheating.
Simply providing shade for the beehive during the hottest time of the day can do so much. Ideally, hives should be under shade in summer, meanwhile have full access to the sunlight during winter. If your beehive is located next to a tree that can provide shade, then you probably don’t need to do as much. However, if your hive is under full sunlight, you can give them partial shade by placing a cover on top of the lid. This can be anything that is big enough to provide your hive some shade. Some examples can be a spare hive cover, spare piece of timber, sheet or a car windscreen.
Providing a Water Source
Just like any other animal, bees need water too. Water is crucial to the maintenance of the temperature of the hive during summer. The honey bees collect water and store it in their honey stomach and carry it back to the hive. They use the water for evaporative cooling.
The bees can be really picky when it comes to water though. They usually avoid clean pristine water and would go with the one that has some dirt in it. If they are not hanging out on the water source you provided, then they probably don’t like it. However, do give them some time to find the water source. It’s recommended to install the water source before summer so bees can find it ahead of the season.
You can also cool the hives by spraying water on the external walls of the hive or on the surrounding ground. You will find that bees will also gather that water. This is especially useful if the bees cannot find the water source that you’ve provided.
Make sure to place the water source ideally within 200 meters from the hive entrance and that is big enough to store at least a liter of water. Bees can use over 1L of water to keep the hive cool.
Ventilation on beehives may not be recommended by many. However, if you do live in an area where it’s typically extremely hot, you’re probably best to install ventilation on your hives. One easy way to do this is to install a hive lid that has pre-installed ventilation holes. That way when you do not need them anymore, it’s easy to just swap them out. Another way is creating an upper entrance to allow more airflow inside the beehive.
Cover The Metal Lid
Many of us have metal roofs as they’re usually durable and long lasting than just timber ones. However, metal does conduct heat and could contribute to your hive overheating. You can prevent this by covering the lid with something white. This will prevent the lid from being exposed to sunlight. You could also get a lid that’s made with timber!
Regulate Your Inspections
It is important to avoid inspecting or opening the hives during the hottest time of the day. They do this by circulating air in the hive, evaporating water and expelling the hot air through
the hive entrance. Lifting hive lids or skewing hive boxes sideways to allow more air into the hive will upset this process and simply allow entry of more hot air. Opening hives for routine management should be postponed on days of extreme heat.
Summer Beekeeping Isn’t All About Honey Harvest
Summer beekeeping tasks don’t only consist of harvesting honey. Better yet, beekeeping doesn’t necessarily mean get the bees, get their honey then leave it. Make sure to be responsible for these special creatures especially during our changing climate! Also do not forget to take care of yourself during the summer.
Also, don’t forget fire safety either. Fire safety advice gets updated regularly. Please check the latest advice for your state and follow the directions of emergency personnel. Always be aware of any bushfire warnings and total fire bans in your area. If there is, please do not light up your smokers and consider inspecting on a safer day.
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