For good bee health, it is important to have a free flow of air around the bee hive. Honey bees are capable of regulating the temperature and humidity of their hive to maintain a healthy environment for brood development. The modern bee hive provides for adequate ventilation in most circumstances. Screened bottom boards and telescoping covers with vented inner covers offer effective ventilation. The bees regulate the atmosphere inside the hive by clustering tightly together in cold weather and spreading out in hot weather. When conditions are extremely hot, bees exit the hive and rest on the outside surface of the hive or festoon from the landing board of the entrance. Moving a number of bees out of the hive makes for greater circulation of air. The bees can usually control the hive’s internal atmosphere by fanning their wings to circulate air. If cooling of the hive is needed, worker bees fan air across a droplet of water carried in their honey gut. Honey bees don’t store water in the hive. The bees themselves serve as a reservoir, holding water in their bodies in their honey gut.
The set-up of the bee yard helps determine how the bees regulate the hive’s internal atmosphere. Air needs to be able to flow around the bee hives. In flat land of the Arkansas Delta, we place bee hives on stands to raise them above the damp ground. While I try to keep foliage away from my bee hives, this year’s more than frequent rains let some get overgrown. I found one covered with fast-growing milkweed vines, possibly blocking air flow around the hive. Inspecting the hive, I found some chalkbrood disease, a fungal condition. Click on the photo of the brood. Fungus-infected larvae appear as white pieces of chalk in the cells. Chalkbrood is usually not a serious bee infection. After removing the vine, and with some dry weather, the colony had removed the infected larva mummies and returned to health.