14 Ways To Keep Hives Cool In Summer

A beekeeper in a protective suit with hot weather and a thermometer in the background

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Honey bees thrive in warm weather, but they have their limits. Too much heat can kill brood and weaken the colony. At the very least, it distracts the worker bees from being productive.

There are some simple options to cool hives in a heat wave. Keep reading to discover fourteen ways to help bees cope with hot weather. At the very least, you’ll want to take our advice on number 13.

How do I cool hives in hot summer weather?

Beekeepers should provide bees with a reliable water source in hot weather. Other ways to help keep the colony cool include positioning hives in partial shade, adding insulation, and ensuring adequate ventilation.

1. Provide a water source

Bees rely heavily on water to cool their hive, so ensure a plentiful source is nearby. Foragers collect H2O in their honey stomachs and return to the hive, using it for evaporative cooling.

A closeup image of a honey bee drinking from a bowl of water that is filled with pebbles
Make sure the water source is bee-friendly.

Set up a water supply near your bee yard before summer kicks in. Your hive will hopefully use it when temperatures increase. Some bee-safe ways to provide water include:

  • Fill a hummingbird feeder with water.
  • Provide a birdbath or container with floating landing pads like corks, sticks, or sponges.
  • Set up a koi pond or a half barrel filled with water and lily pads.
  • Allow a faucet or hose to drip onto a board that collects the water.
  • Set a wide saucer filled with water and pebbles for a safe landing.
  • Consider using a light mister on the hottest days.

Interesting reading: If you live in a hot climate, check out our tips for beekeepers to stay cool in hot weather.

2. Exploit natural shade

A simple way to lower internal hive temperature is by providing partial shade. Positioning your bee yard among trees that help block the sun is your best bet.

Avoid placing hives in a heavily wooded area or anywhere that obstructs foragers as they set off to collect pollen and nectar. The ideal spot gets early morning sunlight and shade during the hottest hours.

Multiple hives set amongst trees enjoying some shade on a sunny day
Partial shade is a huge help for bees on hot days.

3. Use temporary shade

Not every beekeeper lives where natural shade is available. But it’s easy to alleviate heat by setting up a shade tent or umbrella. This approach is a good option for hobbyist beekeepers with a few hives but isn’t practicable for larger operations.

Sizeable apiaries will need to look at alternative locations or other options on this list if high temperatures are becoming an issue.

4. Apply insulation

In scorching climates, insulating the hive helps keep the heat out. Beekeepers can add an insulation box or use a Therma-Lid by Hive Doctor.

A simple, low-cost option for deflecting the sun’s harsh rays is using a beehive cover. These cotton cloths on Amazon are durable and safe for the bees.

Cloths are a low-cost way to help insulate hives.

5. Maximize hive ventilation

Release trapped air by ventilating hives and helping to circulate airflow. Try drilling a couple of one-inch holes into high-up supers, then attaching some mesh to stop robbing.

Screened bottom boards are also an excellent option for improving hive ventilation. They let air in while keeping unwelcome large insects and mice out.

Screened inner covers keep pests out while improving airflow. You can raise the outer cover slightly with shims or move it ajar. This approach helps with ventilation and offers bees a secondary hive entrance.

Note: Venting a hive is only recommended in extreme cases as it encourages robbing.

6. Manipulate internal hive space

When the mercury climbs, some beekeepers increase airflow in the hive. An excellent way to achieve this is to reduce the number of frames in each super. Consider reducing a ten-frame super down to nine frames.

Useful reading: Beekeeping advice during fire season.

7. Paint hives

Dark colors absorb heat, so a dark hive on a hot day is a bee colony’s worst nightmare. Paint your hives white or pale shades to provide some relief from the sun’s harsh rays.

Various beehives on a grassy lawn painted white with a river and trees in the background
White hives reflect the sun’s rays, keeping the colony cooler.

8. Place hives strategically

Choose a suitable place for your hives in a hot climate. Keep hives well away from concrete or asphalt surfaces that radiate extreme heat.

Hive stands are vital for keeping moisture and pests at a distance. But in summer, they assist with ventilation by circulating airflow beneath the hive.

Align hive entrances away from direct sunlight. Orient your hives to reduce the direct impact of the afternoon sun.

9. Consider bee breeds

Each bee breed has its strengths and weaknesses. Some races, like the Buckfast, are comfortable with cold and rainy weather. Other breeds are happier in hotter temperatures.

Having evolved within the hot Mediterranean climate, Carniolans are worth considering. Remember, they’re not as calm as more common races like Italians.

10. Avoid synthetic hive materials

Synthetic hive materials like plastic or polystyrene can retain more heat than natural materials like wood. Use wooden hives, which offer better insulation and breathability.

11. Monitor hive temperature

Keep track of each hive’s internal temperature and humidity with the help of modern technology. A device like the SensorPush HT.w is an American-made gadget that accurately measures temperature and logs the results on your phone.

Recording hive data helps beekeepers act when the hive is in trouble. Use this data in future years for a more proactive approach during the hot months.

Get the SensorPush on Amazon.

12. Cover metal roofs

A metal hive roof looks good and is durable, but they conduct heat. In the peak of summer, try covering the top of the hive with something white, like some corrugated sheet or cardboard. Alternatively, replace the lid with a wooden one at a suitable time.

Unique-looking round hives with metal roofs
Metal roofs are not ideal in warmer climates.

13. Reduce inspections

On stifling summer days, avoid opening the hive or disturbing the colony. More hot air means the worker bees keeping the hive cool will have to work twice as hard.

14. Try a new hive design

In sweltering climates, using a hive designed to cope with extreme cold and hot temperatures may be worth the investment. The Apimaye hive is constructed to regulate the hive’s internal heat.

An Apimaye hive isolated on white background.
The Apimaye is available from Amazon.

Commonly asked questions

Do I need to keep bees cool in summer?

Bees can regulate the temperature inside their hive, keeping it around 95°F (35°C). But prolonged heat waves require a lot of effort to keep cool. This additional work distracts workers from foraging and making honey.

What happens if the hive gets too hot?

Once the heat gets too much for honey bees, the queen will stop laying, wax can melt, and the brood could die. Although uncommon, this situation may cause the colony to abscond. Heat-stressed colonies may need months to return to maximum honey production.

How do bees keep the hive cool?

In hot weather, bees are typically out of the hive foraging, which helps keep the interior cool. Worker bees also collect water and return it to the hive. Along with many bees flapping their wings, the water helps cool the hive.

How hot is too hot for a bee hive?

While the ideal internal temperature of the hive is around 95°F (35°C), they can tolerate hotter conditions. Once the mercury rises above 100°F for extended periods, the bees may need help.

What are the signs of an overheated hive?

Symptoms of a hive struggling with high heat include bearding and increased activity as worker bees collect water. Melted wax or honey is much less common, but it’s a giveaway sign that the hive is overheated. 

What is the ideal temperature range for bees to forage?

Honey bees will forage within temperature ranges of 54-100°F (12-38°C). Activity rapidly declines outside of this range.

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