Our Hottest Day

My home town, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, just set a record for heat. In all the past decades of weather-watching here, we’ve never been as hot as it was today. Ever. (In recorded history.) Officially, it reached 37C, which is over 98F.  I know that a lot of my readers are doing a big yawn – you’ve probably see that over and over again during your summers. But at our latitude and our elevation, this was a hot day.

So, for those of you much more experienced at being in heat than I am, help me out a bit. Our two hives were in the sun this afternoon when the local thermometers boiled over. Daniel went out with a garden hose to soak the lids and sides (but not the entrances) of our hives. Good idea or bad? What do you do in hot climates on hot days?

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
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31 Responses to Our Hottest Day

  1. Susan Rudnicki says:

    I live in Los Angeles—Manhattan Beach, exactly, but the summers are getting hotter and the heat is more prolonged. Today, there are 22 major wild fires burning in our state, and so-called “fire season” which used to be Sept to Dec is now ALL year. We got a total of 4.79 inches of rain last year, all of it in Jan and March. My bees are struggling in a new apiary due to being evicted from a good in-town site, to a site in a rugged So Calif peninsula location surrounded by wild plants dessicated from prolonged drought. The heat is now so intense in summer that I have not only SBBs but fully ventilated screened tops under the top boards. My screened inner covers are the design found on HoneyBeeSuite here— https://honeybeesuite.com/how-to-make-a-screened-inner-cover/ Since my colonies are all foundationless (natural comb, no wires or foundation or plastics) they can melt under intense heat and crumple over. Once, I found honey running out the entrance onto the ground from some collapsed combs in my hives—I have mostly deep boxes. So, that is how I mitigate what is sure to be a ever more severe weather pattern of intense temperatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thanks, Susan. You have a pretty sad story. Less than five inches of rain and all those wildfires. This is probably the ‘new normal’ – though I think that the new normal will be even worse in time. The melted comb was my concern – our temperature gun showed 52C so we got out the hose. Maybe not necessary, but my son had fun!
      Thanks for the advice about the screens. That’s something we could do,

      Like

  2. avwalters says:

    Given that things just seem to be getting ever hotter, this spring we moved the hives from an open meadow to an area of filtered sunshine up in the pines. We have that as an option, not everyone does. It was either that, or we were going to rig “sails” over them for relief from the heat. They are doing much better than last year–when the heat had them bearding over the front of the hives until well past daylight. For reference, we’re in Northern Michigan (the tip of the Mitt.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      I like the idea of sails.
      In Arizona, I saw a small apiary under a ‘tent’ that was open on all sides, but had shade overhead. The structure was permanent and the shade cloth was an old tin roof.

      Like

      • avwalters says:

        Sounds like a plan. Friends of ours became quick converts. The bees were clearly suffering in a heat wave, so they, quick, picked up one of those pop up canopies. Within an hour–the bees were less agitated. And as soon as they figured not to head straight up into it–they were a happier bunch.

        Like

  3. Erik says:

    Yeah, heat. My hives are in the open and when it is hot they beard quite a bit. I have never had a problem, but this here we’ve had your temperatures and higher, with heat indexes well about 100 and near 110 F on some days.

    My biggest top bar hive (in population) has an entrance in the front, and I had three combs fall in the heat. Sad because I know how much effort the bees need to make comb, but they were towards the back of the hive and just didn’t hold up. I am hoping to add some ventilation this weekend….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      That’s too bad about the top bar hive dropping combs. I’ve heard of it happening to others, too. Quite a mess.
      We don’t have your humidity so our actual temperature was also our heat index – if you notice the screen shots of the temperatures at the top of this blog, you can see that our humidity was an incredible 10%! That is amazingly low. It keeps 98F from feeling too awful. It also means that I’ll have some thick dry honey to extract!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. valbjerke says:

    We get temps in northern B.C. (Prince George) like that. I leave water out for them….aside from that, so far nothing extra. I think the saving grace is that at night the temps drop sometimes into single digits which I ‘think’ gives the bees a break.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      We have had similar days – 30C in the afternoon, 9C in the morning (That’s 86 and 48F for American readers.) But this hot spell had morning lows of around 15C, which is very pleasant but not quite as cool as what you might get. The good news for us is that the heat wave was brief. Just three days of extreme heat. Now we are back into the mid-20s.But we did break that all-time high with 37!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ray says:

    Hi Ron, I find shade to be the most beneficial so for your hot days and two hives I would erect a nice big sun parasol, the type you would use in the yard for barbeque’s and garden parties. i have a nice heavy metal base making the whole thing mobile. The benefit of this system is you can deploy as required and move if necessary to block the sun when it is at its hottest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ron Miksha says:

      That’s a great idea! Thanks! It has cooled off already – the hottest day was Friday. Today is Saturday and it looks like it will only reach the low 80s. If the extreme heat comes back, we’ll do something just like you’ve recommended.

      Like

  6. Hi Ron, Here in the famously hot Midlands of South Carolina we do as suggested above and ventilate. Some use the screened inner cover as Susan suggests, others use upper shims with screened port holes which act as a ventilated attic. For those on a budget, a penny or popsicle stick between the inner and outer cover works to vent some of the heat.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve Williams says:

    Here in middle Georgia I make sure that my hives are in a place that allows plenty of air circulation around the hive. Other than that I leave it to the bees. You will see them “bearding” on the hottest days which is their way of COL long the hive and they seem to fare well even on the hottest days. The heat also helps keep the small hive beetle at bay. Hope you guys cool off soon! Anxious to hear how it turns out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thanks, Steve! Up here in western Canada, such heat as we had Friday is a rare treat. Today (Saturday) it will be much more chill – about mid 80s. We are also blessed with thin dry air at our elevation so it cools a lot over night.
      I was worried about the heat (52C on the lids) melting comb so I asked my 16-year-old to hose. Our water comes from mountain glaciers about an hour’s drive away, so it is pretty cool. My boy liked the excuse to spray some cold water around, too!
      I agree that good air drainage would help. These hives are in our back yard in the city so we are stuck with this spot. We were interested in keeping flights out of sight and the boxes hidden. But air circulation is a good idea and I could cut back the shrubs at the entrances. (The entrances face away from the yard, which slopes slightly south, so that we can mow and use the yard more easily.)

      Like

  8. Sorry about your matching your decor Ron, but the first thing I’d be doing is paint those hives white.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Deb Corcoran says:

    We crack the outer covers up in the back so it reston the inner cover. Lots of bees hang out up there when it’s hot. I have screened B.B. but do NOT open them all the way, just open them an inch or so. We do that with hives in all day sun and in the partial shade ones too. I am in western catskill mtns of NY and it’s been HOT and humid.

    Like

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thanks! The consensus here seems to be lots of ventilation. We have wide open front entrances and the summer covers have an entrance, too.
      The weather is more seasonal today. Dog, bees, and family are all more comfortable and less grouchy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. JFBeekeeper says:

    Have had mid 90s F for a little over a month now in middle Tennessee. Some folks just prop up the outer cover to offer better air flow and heat release. Others use a shin with screened vent holes. Some have bottom boards that you can change between solid and screened bottoms depending upon the season. Whatever you do, or don’t do, the bees will pretty much take care of themselves by either bearding to lessen the heat load in the hive, or you may see a small army of bees lined up and fanning at the entrance to create air flow. I have not kept bees for very long but I have never heard of anyone hosing down their hives because of the heat. Maybe with a top bar hive where you may not have the options that a langstroth provides and no bottom and side bars to support the comb, but otherwise, I believe the bees know what to do to regulate the temperature in the hive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thanks, JF! I’ve had bees over 50 years and this is the first time we got silly with a garden hose – but the water was ice cold (from nearby glaciers in the Rockies) and the heat was hot and my son was up to an excuse to spray. Considering that the hive cover had hit over 50C, I was worried about some comb meltdown.

      You are right, bees are supposed to take care of this on their own with bearding and fanning, but you probably noticed two of the comments above mentioned melted, dropped comb.

      Like

  11. Pingback: More on High Temperatures and Bees | Bad Beekeeping Blog

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