Texas summers bring more than a sweat to one’s brow. We all live here. We know the heat can be brutal (we Texans have appreciated this unseasonably cool summer). We are not the only ones who feel this heat, though.
For honey bees, heat is a lot more than a source of discomfort and an inconvenience. Honeybees’ recognition of heat is critical to their livelihood, working hard to control the temperature and climate of their hive for the next generation. Their brood nest (full of eggs) must be kept within 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit with at least 50% relative humidity; time spent outside of these ranges is time that endangers their brood and overall health of the hive.
Unlike us though, bees do not have the luxury of electric coolants and open spaces; their hive instead gets quite stuffy with the thousands of family members living in the same home. So, how do they fix this problem, you ask?
A smart solution is how they mimic the daytime housing situation: keep the hive outside. During the day, overcrowding is not an issue of overheating as foragers are out foraging, naturally. Bees copy that tactic during the night by keeping drones and foragers outside to spread out the body heat. As long as the night stays warm, bees will chill all night long under the blissful moon, minding their own buzziness.
The most critical solution, though, is the same solution as any animal would need: water. Water plays two important parts in the hive, being a humidity control and coolant. We already pointed out the humidity level needed to support a brood nest, which is largely controlled by the hive’s water intake; but, the fun part is how they cool their hive with water.
We did not invent the swamp cooler. The honeybees invented the swamp cooler. Honeybees bring water into their hive (via stomach and regurgitation) to smear at the top of their hive lid. Upon smearing, the honeybee will fan rapidly at the water to drop the temperature and raise the humidity as cool air spreads downwards.
Here’s where you can help! A nifty way to support the bees is to ensure water access so the bees can cool off. All that is needed is a source of water with a place to stand. This is a simple task to not lose all your marbles over! Just some of them, literally. Get a container, fill it with marbles, then fill the cracks with water. This provides an easy way for bees to land on the marbles and get some water access. If you have some, wine corks also make a great, floating platform for bee usage.
Understand that bees overheat too, and save the bees with a small DIY!