This year stands to go on record as the Mid-South’s hottest ever. A hot summer has benefits for the beekeepers, but it also brings difficulties as well. Honey bees often make the most honey in hot, dry years. However, the weather can stress both the bees and the beekeepers as well. The honey bee is well equipped to regulate the temperature in the hive. While brood is being produced throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the interior of the hive is maintained at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. With August daytime temperatures above 100 degrees, the bees cool the hive by moving a number of bees outside the hive. They stand around the entrance, often festooning in a beard of bees hanging from the hive’s entrance landing board. Removing bees helps open the hive for ventilation. Workers fan their wings to produce a flow of air through the hive. The bees also bring in large quantities of water. By fanning their wings over a droplet of water, the workers cool the hive. The beekeeper can help the bees cool the hive by ensuring that the hive is located near a body of water. If a natural source of water is not available, the beekeeper can provide water nearby. As the summertime temperatures climb, the workers stop foraging for nectar and pollen and seek sources of water. Honey bees don’t store water in the hive as they store honey and pollen in honeycomb cells; they store water in the honey gut of the individual worker bees.
Beekeepers need to carefully plan their summertime activity. Working around the bees in protective bee suits during hot weather makes the task potentially dangerous. If it is necessary to visit the bee yards, we usually plan on working early in the day before temperatures rise to dangerous levels. When it’s hot, beekeepers, like the bees, need to stop their normal activity and seek water. In today’s photo, honey bees gather at a poultry watering bowl.