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Help Your Bees and Increase Honey Yields with Hive Ventilation
In our previous three blog posts, we looked at reasons ventilation may be needed, and then we looked at lots of different ways you can choose to provide ventilation in your hives. If you haven’t read those posts, click here to begin reading the series. As a quick summary of benefits, hive ventilation provides:
- Elimination of excess heat
- Reduction and elimination of moisture buildup
- Releases airborne toxins
- Allows carbon dioxide to escape
- Enables pathogens to escape
Something we didn’t mention in previous posts, however, is that hive ventilation can also increase the amount of honey your hive can provide. That’s right! Too much heat in the hive can have a negative impact on honey production.
Ventilation Reduces the Work of the Bees
Honeybee brood are extremely sensitive to temperature; therefore, worker bees must work harder when temperatures are extremely high during the summer to maintain the temperatures required to successfully rear brood. The ideal temperature for brood development is 95° F. If the temperature fluctuates too much from this ideal, brood begin to die.
When outside temperatures are high, bees work vigorously to keep the temperatures inside the hive cool enough for brood development. Bees that would normally be out foraging for nectar and pollen, begin to forage for water. They bring loads of water to the hive and pass it off to worker bees who deposit it at strategic locations on the comb. (This is why it’s a good idea to provide bees with a reliable, clean water source that’s near the hive. Less transport time makes it easier and faster for the bees to bring water to help cool the hive.) Then, the bees fan their wings to create air currents over the water droplets, setting up an evaporative cooling system to cool the brood nest. Some bees may also exhibit behavior that is called heat-shielding by pressing their bodies against the wall of the brood nest, thereby, absorbing localized heat.
In a well-ventilated hive, the bees won’t have to work as hard to keep the brood nest within the ideal temperature range. This means that instead of wasting their energy and efforts cooling the hive, the bees can be out foraging for nectar and pollen. The more nectar the bees gather, the more honey they create for you to enjoy.
Ventilation Helps Prevent Comb From Melting
Bees also have to work to keep the hive cool enough to prevent the wax comb from melting. If the comb melts, the bees will have to spend time rebuilding it. Melted comb can also mean lost honey stores and loss of brood. Bees that are working to keep the hive cool are bees that aren't out foraging for nectar.
As you can see, if you help the bees out by providing ventilation, you are increasing your honey yields. And, by keeping brood alive and healthy, you are doing what you can to ensure the viability of your hive.
Honey Cures Faster
Whichever ever ventilation method you choose, a hive that is adequately vented will cure honey faster because good airflow removes moisture from the hive. Reduced moisture leads to faster curing times.
The bees waste a tremendous amount of energy fanning moist air that doesn’t have anywhere in which to escape in a poorly ventilated hive. If no ventilation exists to allow the moist hot air to escape through the top of the hive, then the moisture condenses under the cover of the hive, eventually dripping back down onto the bees.
The relative humidity inside the hive can be so high that it can become impossible to dry nectar and efficiently cure honey. Bees can only do so much to eliminate heat and humidity inside the hive. Why not do what you can to give them a hand by incorporating more ventilation in your hives?
Want more ideas to help your hive stay cooler in the summer heat? Check out our blog post, Keeping Hives Cool in the Heat.