Bees in the Heat

Kind of a spooky dawn this morning. The haze has created this effect I suppose.  The only green in our landscape is the genetically modified crops but even they are beginning to curl up in the heat of the day. 
When bees encounter very high temperatures they use a number of systems to cool the hive. They like to keep the hive at a temperature of 90-95 (32-35C) all year round. Normally they regulate the temperature by fanning in the summer or huddling in the winter. When the temperatures are in excess of 100F then they order extra water collection. In fact many honey collectors will be sent for water instead.  The collected droplets are laid in a line just inside the entrance to the hive and  rotating squadrons of  bees are sent out to fan air across the water line, with another set of bees inside fanning the cooler air up into the hive.

If you put your ear to the hive wall you will hear the noise of thousands of wings, it sounds like the roar of a small motor revved to the max. If it is still too hot many of the bees will crawl right out of the hive and loiter about at the entrance, freeing up space in the hive for the air to flow to the brood. This causes overcrowding at the nightclub doors, and they get in the way of the fanners, so the bouncers send the crowd out into the street and up the walls to cool off.  Creating a thick gathering of buzzing bees on the outside of the hive. This is called bearding.  Bearding is common in the heat. Bearding has nothing to do with swarming.

To help the over heating hive I need to make sure there is plenty of water around, and that the hive is vented with my stick at the top.  The rest I leave to the bees.  And hope the temperatures drop soon.

When I have the vents open they order extra guard bees to make sure there are no intruders.

One of my hives has a heaving mass who hangs out on the shaded side of the hive, the wall is thick with them. They are bearding normally. The other hive has a scattering of bees all over it and they are all facing downwards. I did not notice how they were arranged  until I processed the image.

This can mean that there has been a mutiny and a large portion of the hive  is considering doing a runner.  These girls have been sent outside to wait.  They are the rabble in the streets waiting for the order. They might be going to swarm due to overcrowding. I am sure the heat contributes to this. So this hive will have to be inspected today. Which is pretty mean as the fanners and the droplet collectors  will have regulated the temperature in the hive and when I open it up I am going to disrupt all their hard work and let the hot air in. 
Good morning.  My weather man tells me that we have one more day of this heavy hot weather. Let’s hope so. The prolonged high temperatures are beginning to wear on the animals.  The Baby Bobby Blanc is being fed extra water through-out the day as he has become unusually lethargic.  The Big Dog who is quite old has become very hobbly and wobbly on his feet and is not eating very much and Queenie had to be prodded and scared up yesterday evening after lying down all day. Her mouth is open, panting and she is dribbling saliva. I mist her with the hose during the day and I did get her to move out into a new field last night with the others.  But I had to point the lemon grass fly spray at her to make her move to the water trough. She hates the fly spray. Why that cow is having trouble in the heat I do not know.  The others are fine. Daisy as you know is giving more milk than ever. But losing weight.  We are all losing weight.

One of the big pigs is having the same trouble but he will lie under the sprinkler cooling off. So he is a bit easier to manage. Once again though they are not keeping up with their feed. The only ones thriving in the heat are the chickens as they go around cleaning up everyone else’s uneaten expensive grain and hanging out under the pigs sprinklers, ruffling their feathers and chatting.

No-one eats in the day time when it is this hot. All the smaller animals and birds are  getting extra milk and eggs to compensate. The sheep and cows are being fed alfalfa in the shade.

So today will be another day of gathering  water and fanning for the bees and laying under the trees for the large animals and dragging  hoses for me. We are managing so far though, our systems are working. One more day.

I hope you all find something lovely today.  Whether you are cool or hot.


94 Comments on “Bees in the Heat

  1. Noticed the wild bees in the old cherry tree doing this a few days ago, and wondered if they were cooling, or planning an escape…still not sure, but it does sound like a small engine running when you get close to the tree.

    Hope the weather man is right, for the sake of everyone.

    • Well wild bees can naturally swarm to create new hives so it will be interesting to see what happens.. though it is getting a bit late to swarm so they say.. c

  2. I can feel the heat as I read about it, perhaps because it’s pretty hot here too. I love your hive photos and am curious to know what you’ll find when you open that hive. Sending cool, breezy thoughts your way (these are the days when every breeze is a gift).

  3. It’s hard to imagine you are so hot when it’s so cold here. Bees are so well organised and they are such hard workers. I hope you get some relief from the heat soon xx

    • It was 104 here again yesterday charlie, that is over 40. Which in itself is ok but for days and days on end i am not set up for it.. c

  4. Just one more day C – just one more day! I hope your weather man has it right! If I could, I would send you some of our extremely cold weather to compensate for your heat but alas.
    🙂 Mandy

  5. I had no idea about the bees…. and I certainly didn’t know that heat would affect their behavior as it does humans. Jen’s been pretty cranky lately also. I’m worried about poor old Big Dog.

    • The door to the basement is wide open all day too so he can go down into the cool (it is cooler than the house) with the other dogs but he just will not.. he needs a good thunderstorm to scare him down there! I have been getting some ground beef out for him, we have plenty and he will eat some of that with his milk and eggs so he will be Ok. but all he really wants is the milk. So that is what he gets.

  6. Those bees are sooooo clever. Could you put some ice in the hive for a temporary respite? Or am I totally impractical? The photo of Kupa is absolutely magnificent. He is a rajah.
    Your wish that we find something lovely is heart-warming, even though it’s still cold and wet outside, and we may be obliged to cancel tomorrow’s carneval. I’ve just put a picture of my FINISHED magnum opus quilt on my blog. Lovely? Not sure.

  7. I cannot even begin to manage heat my fried – your bees and you are doing wonderfully (runs in the family ;))
    As always hoping everything is well and sending our cold down to you!


  8. As always, your bee story is fascinating, they must be great to watch. I feel so sorry for you all in that heat. Is this normal at this time of year for you or are you experiencing unseasonable weather like us? Have a good day anyway and try not to melt!

    • It gets up to 100 frequently in the summer but to have a whole WEEK hitting 103 and 104 is a bit unusual, though the locals tell me that it does happen every now and then.. c

  9. The bees are fascinating. They, and all the animals cope with temperature variations but it’s concerning when it’s so extreme for so long. Through your own efforts you’ve created the best of environments so all will be well 🙂 Queenie may be like me, some of us don’t do well in the heat.

  10. You are such a caring and doting caretaker of the farmy…. All your animals are quite blessed. Don’t forget to give yourself the occasional spray with the hose!

  11. Weather report from southern Minnesota: A cool front moved through last night. This morning the temperature is 65 glorious, cool degrees, minus the humidity. I turned off the air and flung open the windows and doors. Here’s hoping the same system has moved your direction.

  12. G’morning, Gunga Din,
    Yep this is the last of ’em, though it’s still going to be in the high 90’s, it is not much of a break . Hold on till tomorrow, about 82˚ with an overnight low of 65˚.
    Your bee keeping duties and their behaviour is fascinating, Celi. Like most, I knew they were highly organized but very little else. You’ve really filled in the blanks for me They are remarkable creatures.
    Have a great day!

    • ‘Din Din Din, you limping lump of brickdust’.. thats all i can remember, didn’t he die in the end? my dad used to chant Kipling when he was happy! I must look that one up!! l.. wow an overnight of 65 is worth waiting for! morning john.. have your tomatoes perked up at all? c

      • They’re doing better, though a few limbs had to be pruned; they did not refresh like most did. Thanks again, for you help.

  13. The bees are really interesting! I didn’t know they regulated the temperature for their hive! Truly amazing to see animals cope so naturally for themselves. Hopefully your weather man was right and you and the animals get a break from this heat finally!

  14. Here’s hoping that it is the last very hot day for you and the farmy! It’s a lot of work keeping everyone cool – or encouraging them to stay cool – and how interesting about the bees, I had no idea!

  15. Mornin’ C; You really have to be tuned in to the bees, watching for little, tiny, barely noticeable (to the untrained eye) changes in their behavior…you amaze me everyday. So happy to have “met” you.
    Hope you have a wonderful day.
    It is again in the triple digits here with extremely high humidity. Some days I do wish for a/c…(if only for a moment) of course I would have it on in the barn. lol

    • morning jess, it really is a matter of looking with your eyes wide open, then going and finding out why. To have one hive doing one thing and the one next door doing another is a flag demanding research.. and I am sure you walk your fields doing the same thing, looking for changes that are the warnings.. c

  16. Hi Celi! We thought something was wrong when we noticed bearding going on with our bees, but quickly discovered that it was normal, thank goodness! Do you just need to add a super onto the hive that’s overcrowded? We just added another super onto ours, the second one this summer. But we are new beekeepers and are really just feeling our way along!

    • I have also added supers. but i have run out and need to order some more (poo). If they are crowded in there you really have to give them space. But once you take off your honey you will reduce the space again for the winter so they stay warmer.. I don;t think bearding neccessarily means overcrowding though – it means hot. Everyone outside so we can get some air! You should find that by morning they have funnelled back in. If not then add another super and think about splitting the hive in the spring.. c

      • Splitting the hive in the Spring is probably a good idea…and would hopefully avoid them swarming and going somewhere else. I hope we know more about it by then! Right now we can recognize the brood chambers and larvae, but cannot recognize the queen. Finding her is proving increasingly difficult!!!

        • Don’t worry about it.. i have never found a queen in my life. Once I did by taking shots of where i thought she might be and then looking for her on the screen! I split my hives last year and they swarmed after i split them! so you will still need to look for queen cells. I am still learning as i go along. I think you might get some honey this year though by the sounds of it!

    • so do i.. no rain in the forecast though, nowhere, but the cool weather will come tonight they say!.. c

  17. I missed you Celi. It is not like I did not want to visit all your lovely posts I have been having some issues with WordPress reader and for time I was not able to access anyone and now for some reason you are not showing up in my reader. I think I have IT gremlins. what is going on? I sure hope it cools down on the farm. Can you imagine if you were a bee near the honey it would like being stuck in hot lava. Stay cool. BAM

    • i think the notification of post problem has got me too, A few weeks ago and from one day to the next, my readers dropped by 400. Which was significant and incredibly depressing. I love my readers and I notice when they are missing. So from memory i have trolled around looking for people. Slowly they are building up again, and of course many are still here every day but i have to imagine that i have dropped off a lot of peoples lists. Plus of course i am suffering the same problem from the other side where i have lost people I often read, though i often visit people when i want to as well, I seldom refer to the lists to find my favourites.. Thats why i pop in to see you on odd days, you will pop into my head and I will pop over.. c

  18. Perhaps the powers that be could send you a lovely thunderstorm this evening to cool things off. I hope your temperatures drop soon — if I could ship you our abundant fog and breezes I would.

    • We would love a good storm, i mean the grass needs it but my muddy cows need it too, they all need a good wash!

  19. What an interesting story about the bees. The only bees we have in my neighbourhood are the wild ones. They don’t have to worry about heat so far, but have to contend with very cool nights. Yesterday morning I found one huge bumble bee curled up in a peony bloom – as soon as the sun warmed it up it headed off on its rounds.

  20. hi c! we used to rent kiplings house in brattleboro vermont until they stopped allowing dogs. i sure hope this is the last day for this heat. today will be our hottest day yet. we are supposed to be 108. unreal and downright awful. i hope your animals hang in there and get through this awful day without any trouble. that sure is interesting about the bees. they sure are smart. joyce

    • we are going to 104 today, i am not even going to think about the heat index, but 108 sounds dreadful.. i hope you get some cool weather soon too joyce.. c

  21. Hello Celi, I recognise that sunrise from many hot summers.
    This evenings news had footage of your heatwave; hopefully a cool change is headed your way soon!

  22. Well, I think bees are going to do what they’re going to do. Opening the hive won’t change that and Stella and I have decided not to stress them further by nosing around inside and leave them be, figuring they know what they need more than we do. Just a thought.

    • i think you may be right, we have already decided it is going to be too hot to look today, though i will tomorrowwhen it is cooler, to see if they need another super.. they are bringing in lots of honey this year!

  23. We seem to have a distinct shortage of bees this year, which is worrying. Normally the lavender and the honeysuckle is alive with bees, but all is silent. There is always the thought of fertilisers which our peasant farmers use like they’re going out of fashion ( which they have).

    • How strange that your wild bees have gone.. though you have had a lot of rain and cold , which will slow them down? c

  24. I feel so sorry for critters in the hot days. After endless heat, rain came last night. Cooler temps and rain forecast for the next few days. Cooler air is heading your way!

    • When they climb up the walls outside the hive in a thick mass that is normal, when they are thinly scattered that is an indication of something else .. maybe.. maybe not. c

  25. Hang on a bit longer, C. The cooler air is coming. It just takes a while to cool down once they get the doors to Hell closed again.

    The weathermen here are out of their leagues. Today, they say it will be a high of 101, but could be over 106. I think that’s a pretty broad range. But by Monday, it should be 20 degrees cooler. I think it’s appropriate. Today is my daughter’s birthday. The last time we had an extended period of temperatures this high was when she was born, in 1993. So it’s her fault. I knew it would be.

    • Well happy daughters birthday to you Dad! 106 sounds nasty, we are looking at 104. And i need to get out there shortly and makes sure everyone is under cover .. we can do another day, just one mind you! Morning Bill.. c

  26. I had never realised heat affected bees so much! I have just given the family a lesson in bee husbandry based on this post! Amazing pictures too…that skyline is beautiful.
    Stay cool 🙂

  27. Hi Cinders…I kind of agree with the crazysheeplady..shouldn’t you ought not to disturb them and let them figure it out…as only they know how to do that, nature knows best…more harm might be caused than not if you disrupt their system…maybe not…what do I know…I am not a beekeeper but just makes sense to leave them bee! 🙂
    I knew you were a fairy farm mother…keeping all creatures on the farmy as cool as hydrated as you can!!
    Great photos…even in all that heat!! Stay cool yourself…relief is on the way!! How do you sleep at night…do you have fans or just head to the basement??

    • It is a good thought and thank you for bringing it up but I do not want them to swarm. Then more than half the hive will fly away into spray country. Then i am left with a tiny number who will probably not survive the winter alone. these are italian bees and domestic bees will not survive in the wild here it is too cold, and there are no forests to shelter in,and the surrounding horticulture is not a good place for a bee to try and find a home. So if they swarm then i will have to go and rescue them, then build them a new house and then wait another year with two tiny groups of bees. It is true I cannot inspect today as it is too hot. But we may also have an infestation from moths or something happening in there. There are many reasons why it is my responsibility to look after them. Actually tomorrow we will link back to me capturing a swarm.. that will be fun for you to see and will illustrate what i am saying. it is good to ask these questions though christine.. thank you for that.. c

  28. We all go a it bonkers in the heat, no chance of that in NZ at the moment, 5C this morning in Muriwai which is very unusual, sunny though…it’s going to be a stunning day.

  29. What fascinating information about bees, and I hope they aren’t getting ready to swarm…I don’t know much about them, but I know that’s not good. RE the post notification problem, I have noticed twice in the last two weeks that you either fell off my reader, or my email subs, or both and had to resubscribe both. At the moment you are showing up on both, but that’s the first time in quite a while. I just posted about fighting heat with heat in food, but am thinking at 104 for so many days and no air…you don’t need more heat, that’s for sure. May relief come soon!

  30. This was so fascinating g to read almost felt like I had picked up an old journal from a homesteader going through drought on the land.. Long long ago. I loved your writer’s voice today!

  31. That is all so interesting about the bees. I knew how they kept warm in winter, but not about their winged air-conditioning system in summer. They are so resourceful – as are you, thinking up 101 ways to keep your animals comfortable and thriving. Hope it cools soon.

  32. This may sound ridiculous, but do you still need to smoke the bees to extract the honey when it’s so hot outside?

    • that is not a silly question, I don’t want smoke in my honey and to extract the honey I want all the bees to be out of the way, so i wait until it is a bit colder, then when they will go down to cuddle up and keep warm I block them out of the honey layer.. it is too early to take honey.. the early honey always crystallises, in my experience.. I will lead you through the process later in the year.. if I want some honey earlier, i just brush the bees off..and nick it then gobble it up just for me c

  33. That is so interesting about bee activity. I’m glad to hear cooler temps are on the way. We have another day of it, at least. Finally, there is rain in the forecast.

  34. Longtime reader,first time poster.There is a great book on Bees called Bumblebee Economics by Bernd Heinrich.This one is more technical than his usual work but it provides a wealth of info on Bees.

    • Thank you John, i shall check it out. I am always trying to learn more. The bees have a fascinating world! c

  35. Thank-you for the explanation Cinders…see what I mean? I’m not a bee-keeper as I said…so what do I know?? Don’t you just love it when some non-farmy folks try and give you their opinions or advice. Ha ha!
    Sorry…I’ll try and not do that anymore!
    So glad that you recovered from your heat stroke…that must have been awful! You take care of yourself…we all need you…2 and 4 legged together! 🙂

    • That is fine honey, like I say it gave me a chance to explain why I try to avoid letting hives swarm! cinders!

  36. Thank-you for not thinking me a dork…or maybe thinking it and not saying it! Ha! Cinders, the Fairy Farm Mother knows best!! 🙂

  37. And I love that you are such a kind and gentle spirit and even in the face of so much ignorance out there…ah me…how you can be so sweet and patient!! But then, that is so evident in how you live your life and treat your animals and the folks in your life. You are a gem, Cinders!!

  38. I read an article recently that siad that unlike horses, cows do not sweat enough to keep cool in extreme heat.

  39. That explains why there were a bunch of bees in my herb boxes (which flooded out with the last storm). Extra water!

  40. I’m doing some catch up after our camping trip. I certainly hope by now your weather has cooled off! I’m always fascinated by the bees. Such interesting lives they live and they’re so smart!

  41. Thanks for the bee info…I have had quite a large number of bees this year in the garden. I don’t have a hive but someone nearby must! This heat is tough on people and all the critters. Glad your all doing well.

    • you must have water in your garden, or a dripping tap.. they love taps dripping onto stones the most. .. c

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