The honey bee colony regulates the temperature in its nest to protect the developing brood. Whenever the bees are producing young, they maintain a temperature of 95 degrees inside the hive. In cool weather, the bees cluster together and generate heat by consuming their high energy food, honey, and vibrating their flight muscles. In warm weather, like we are experiencing now, the bees must cool the hive. They do this by first expanding the distance between bees in the nest to allow for air circulation. If there are too many bees in the hive, some merely move outside and cling to the outside of the hive or festoon down from the landing board. The bees inside the hive actively cool the nest by bringing in water from outside sources and fanning their wings across a droplet of water. The evaporating water cools the hive. A hot, humid afternoon found the bees actively cooling the hives. Click on the picture to see the bees aligned in an orderly arrangement to carry the air out the entrance, which is at the bottom. Other bees are aligned head-down to carry heat away from the entrance.
The honey bee colony is effective in regulating the temperature of its nest. During the dead of winter, when the queen is not producing brood, the bees don’t waste energy heating the hive to 95 degrees; they only warm the cluster of bees to about 70 degrees. They also conserve energy by not trying to warm the entire hive cavity, just the cluster of bees. For cooling the hive, the bees devote a number of workers to fanning tasks. When the summer temperatures rise into the high 90s, the bees stop their normal activities and begin foraging for water. Bees foraging for pollen and nectar will redirect their efforts to bringing water back to the hive. With the major nectar flows in the Arkansas Delta approaching, the bee hives are full of bees.