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Top 5 Tips to Prepare Your Hives for a Successful Summer
If you’re new to beekeeping, you’ve probably purchased most of your beekeeping supplies and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy your new hobby. Don’t get too comfortable. There’s always something to do.
By April, in the warmer southern climes, bees have already started making honey. Southern beekeepers should add beehive boxes and beehive frames to keep up with honey production. They should also check the laying pattern in the brood chambers. Beekeepers in cooler regions can begin hive inspections, preparing for the upcoming season. Both should be on the lookout for signs of disease and hive pests.
By May, bees in the South begin to cap honey. Southern beekeepers should check to make sure the queen is laying eggs. Northern beekeepers should be able to smell both wax and honey at their hives. They should check the queen's laying pattern. Both should continue to look for signs of disease and hive pests.
It’s time to prepare your beehives for the high temperatures associated with the upcoming summer months. Bees can typically regulate the temperature inside the hive; but when temperatures soar over 100°F, they need your help! What you can do to help your bees survive the heat?
1. Provide Shade
If your hive is not situated under a leafy canopy to provide shade during the heat of the day, adding a source of shade is one of the simplest ways to help your hives remain as cool as possible. You can easily set up a shade tent or situate an umbrella over the hive. Don’t move the hive to a shady location, however, or the bees will become disoriented.
2. Make Water Available
Make sure your bees have a water source that is to their liking. They can be picky, so if you’ve given them something you consider suitable, but don’t see them using it (especially when it’s hot), you’ll need to try something else. Worker bees carry water back to the hive where it’s used for evaporative cooling. Set up a water source before it’s needed so they know where to find it when they need it. Water sources need to be shallow enough to keep the bees from drowning. Floating a sponge (which serves as a landing pad) in a bucket of water is perhaps the easiest way to provide water. Dump and refill the bucket often to eliminate mosquito larvae.
3. Provide Ventilation
When the temperatures become extremely high, you can create an upper entrance (by drilling a one-inch hole in the uppermost super) so the heat can rise and escape through it. If the bees don’t use the entrance, place a piece of screen over it to keep robbers out but still allow the heat to escape.
4. Provide Insulation
Insulation comes in handy, winter and summer. In the winter, it’s used to keep the hive warm by insulating it from the cold. When the weather turns hot, insulation placed under the roof will help stabilize temperatures inside the hive. An insulated hive cover or an insulation box made specifically for vertical hives is an easy solution.
5. Replace Metal Roofs
Metal roofs get hot and retain the heat, warming up the hive and keeping it that way – like an oven. Consider replacing your metal roof with a wooden one. At the very least, cover the metal with something white such as a white corrugated sheet or a large storage bin lid. Remember - white reflects heat, while black absorbs and holds onto the heat.
These tips will help your hives maintain manageable temperatures even as the mercury rises. They’ll help prevent your bees from becoming overheated and help keep your combs from melting. Use them to take some of the stress out of your beekeeping journey and to help your bees and hives stay healthy and producing.