How To Cool Honey Bee Hives In Summer

Graphic of honey bee holding an umbrella for shade from the sun When temperatures rise to high levels, your bees may be at risk. The world is suffering from higher than normal temperatures as the climate crisis rages on, but some beekeepers are also suffering colony losses. Most of the time, bees are best able to control the temperature inside the hive themselves, but when thermostats near 100°F, your bees may need your help!

To get a sense of how hard your bees are working to keep cool, it's relatively easy to place a thermometer at your entrance(s) to gauge the temperature of the air being pushed out of the hive. Keep in mind brood rearing requires a temperature in the 91 - 97°F range. If your entrance temperatures are significantly above that, you may wish to take the temperature near the brood nest to see if they are winning the climate control battle (example: thermometer).

Keep in mind brood rearing requires a temperature in the 91 - 97°F range. If your entrance temperatures are significantly above that, you may wish to take the temperature near the brood nest

Here are 7 strategies that can help you handle heat stress on your honey bee hives.

1.  Water Source

Honey Bee Drinking Water When temperatures rise to high levels, your bees may be at risk. The world is suffering from higher than Water is critical for cooling the hive. Worker bees collect it in their honey guts and carry it back to the hive where it is used for evaporative cooling. Make sure your bees have a water source that they like. Honey bees are notoriously picky about where they get their water. If you are experiencing hot weather, you should see bees on your water source. If they are not there, then, the water source is not suitable and you need to try something else. It’s best to establish a water source before the summer so that the bees can easily find and utilize it when the temperatures get high.

2.  Provide Shade

One of the simplest ways to alleviate heat in your hives is to provide shade. Simply set up an umbrella or shade tent over your hive when you see hot weather predicted in your forecast. A simple, if temporary, way to add shade is to lay a few tree branches on top of your hive.

3.  Remove Metal Roofs

Many beekeepers use metal roofs because they are more durable and often look stylish, but metal conducts heat and this could make all the difference in a heatwave. You can help alleviate the heat inside the hive by covering your metal roof with something white, like a large storage bin lid or a piece of white corrugated sheet, or better yet, trade out your metal roofs for wood ones.

4.  Insulation

Venting hives in hot weather because this can sometimes release the scent of honey and make your colony vulnerable to robbing, but in extreme heat, this could save your colony from melted combs and overheating. The best way to vent a hive is by creating an upper entrance so the heat can rise through it.

5.  Proper Ventilation

Honey bee hive with thermometer measuring temperature of brood nest Another way to help your colony stay cool is to provide insulation. Many beekeepers use insulation in winter to keep colonies warm in cold weather, but it’s also useful for keeping colonies cool in hot weather. Insulation under the roof especially will help to keep temperatures steady inside the hive, even when they have spiked outside. Here are several suggestions: complicated.

Adding an upper entrance and tilting a telescoping cover back is certainly a simple way to offer some heat relief to a colony.
Use screened bottom boards in the summer, and make sure there is escape above for all that warm, moist air to rise and release.
If you use inner covers or crown boards raise them up so air can move up even faster than simply through the ventilation holes provided.
Lift up the cover for better air movement. The bees will guard the cracks and crevices you create, and you can always reduce them if you think robbing might be a problem.
Some beekeepers make sure each box has one less frame -- nine for 10 frame, seven for eight frame, to widen just a bit the gap between frames to assist air movement.
Offset the supers on the back side of the hive, leaving a one inch gap or so, so hot air can escape from every super and not have to travel all the way to the top of the stack. Bees will guard these entrances, and even in very rainy weather little water will get in the hive, and then, it will simply run out the front door.

And better ventilation is good for other things than just being cool. Think honey dehydration -- you need to stay hydrated, but your bees want to dehydrate all that honey they are bringing in. And if warm, moist air can’t readily escape, it takes more bees fanning to get it dry, and until it’s dry there’s less room to store incoming nectar

Further Information:   

Wisconsin Bee Identification Guide
Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin
Bumble Bees of Wisconsin
Wild Native Bee Nest Boxes

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