The Beekeeping Year: Summer

Learn what kind of honey bee behavior you’re likely to see during the heat of summer and the cause behind your winged friends’ puzzling actions.

| August 2019

bees-water
Photo from Adobe Stock/orestligetka

During the summer months, the bees continue to forage all morning, noon, and even into the night. Since the days are longer, the bees have more time to gather pollen, nectar, and water. Your colony will be at its greatest population during the summer months, with each member preparing for the coming winter.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to remove your entrance reducer. Failing to do so could cause your hive to overheat. The summer heat will also cause the bees to be less active, and they will beard on the outside of the hive to stay cool.

Bearding

One thing you’ll notice that may seem weird during the dog days of summer is bearding. Bearding is when a lot of your bees hang out on the outside of their hive, in a formation that resembles a man’s beard. This bearding during the heat is different than the bearding you will see when your bees are getting ready to swarm.



Have you ever seen wax melt in the heat? Like when your lip balm gets too hot when you accidentally left it in the car? The same thing happens to beeswax inside the hive during the heat of the summer. To keep the hive cool, many of the bees will leave the hive and hang out on the outside.

Another pretty amazing way bees stay cool is by evaporation, creating their own air-conditioning. They do this by collecting water and adding it to the comb. Then they fan the water with their wings, causing it to evaporate and cool down the hive. Pretty neat! This bee-conditioning is another major reason why you need to provide your bees with a constant supply of fresh water. In addition to water, you can help your hive stay cool by making sure it’s located in a shady spot during the summer.

bee-beard
Photo from Adobe Stock/WoGi

Orientation Flights

Do you remember your job orientation? On your first day, someone shows you where the break room is and where to park. When it’s time for the bees to leave their hive, they will take an orientation flight. I’ve always enjoyed orientation flights because we get hundreds of bees just flying all over our property pinging into everything. Don’t be alarmed if you see a bunch of bees flying in places you haven’t noticed bees before. These are the new recruits getting familiar with their surroundings during orientation flights.

Another thing you may notice during orientation flights is it is lightly raining when there isn’t a rain cloud in the sky. Hint, hint, that’s not rain falling from the sky, so don’t look up. The light sprinkle you may feel is actually bee pee. Yep; people do it, birds do it, and bees do it. Oh, and those mustard-brown streaks on the front of your once-spotless beehive? Take a guess.

More from Beekeeping for Beginners:

beekeeping-for-beginnersWouldn’t it be great to raise your own bees, have a fresh supply of honey, and bring thousands of healthy pollinators into your yard? Beekeeping for Beginners is a simple, step-by-step guide that helps you learn the fundamentals of modern beekeeping. You (and your bees) will be buzzing with delight. From picking the right hive and bringing your bees home to surviving winter and collecting honey, experienced beekeeper Amber Bradshaw takes you on an easy-to-follow journey through your first year of beekeeping and beyond. Beekeeping for Beginners includes: Just the essentials ― Learn everything you need to know to begin your first colony ― written with brand new beekeepers in mind; Modern beekeeping ― Start your colony off right with guides that feature the newest practices and current, natural approaches; and Learn to speak bee ― Clearly defined terms and a complete glossary will have you talking like a pro beekeeper in no time. Begin your beekeeping the right way ― and avoid getting stung by mistakes ― with Beekeeping for Beginners.

Excerpt from Beekeeping for Beginners: How to Raise Your First Bee Colonies, by Amber Bradshaw, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2019 by Callisto Media. All rights reserved.

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