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Hot and humid weather is hard on the bees during the summer months. Honey Bees can only do so much to help regulate the hive temperature at 90-95 Degrees Fahrenheit. When the colony is at its max population and internal hive temperatures continue to rise, clusters of bees will try to escape the heat of the hive and hang out at the entrance of the hive. This can be misinterpreted as swarming when in fact it is bearding.

Why do bees beard?

When you find bees clustering or hanging at the entrance of the hive, they are bearding. This gives the appearance of the hive having a beard. Some colonies will cover the entrance where others will hang from the bottom board. Colonies will create these beards outside the hive when the inside becomes overcrowded, hive lacks ventilation, or temperatures become too high. Honey Bees typically do this to help maintain the brood nest temperature. Brood requires a certain temperature and will not survive if it becomes too hot or too cold.

How do bees regulate the hive temperature during Summer and how can Beekeepers help?

Have you ever seen a bee at the entrance of the hive beating her wings but not taking flight? She is fanning the hive. Bees will collect water to use for evaporative cooling. Bees will face away from the entrance of the hive and begin fanning. The airflow that is created from the bees beating their wings will evaporate the water droplets throughout the hive. Whenever you find bees fanning at the entrance, know that there are many more inside fanning as well.

Bees can only do so much to reduce the heat in the brood nest. Beekeepers must provide sufficient ventilation for the hive. Here are some tips and tricks for beekeepers to help fight the summer heat:

Nothing can beat a screened bottom board. Airflow is able to move up through bottom board and can significantly help with hive temperature. The screened bottom board is only useful if the screen is left open. Be sure to remove the corrugated sheet used for mite counts.

Ventilate the top as well as the bottom with a ventilated inner cover.Heat rises and the ventilated inner cover offers the space the heat needs to escape. The inner cover props up the hive top allowing airflow to move up and through the hive.

Open up the hive entrance. Larger entrances are better for the summer heat. This provides more fanning space and less congestion for incoming bees.

Allow for more bee space by reducing the number of frames. Consider using 9 frames in your 10 frame hive or 7 in your 8. This will open up space between the frames and better ventilate your hive.

Give your hive some shade. Provide a source of shade especially if the hive is in direct sunlight during the entire day. The sun beating down on the hive makes it difficult for the bees to maintain hive temperature. Open up your upper entrance. This small vent will allow heat to escape the hive and provides an alternate entrance/exit for your bees.

Use light color paint for your hives. Dark colors will absorb heat while lighter colors will reflect the sun’s heat.

Have a reliable source of water near your bee yard. Bees can use up to a quart of water during a hot day to keep the hive cool. Keep the water supply filled and in a shaded area.

Summer heat will keep the bees constantly working to maintain the hive temperature and reduces the number of bees able to forage for nectar and pollen. Help the bees regulate hive temperature and give them a stronger field force to bring in the feed they need.