Do you have a bee farm and you are wondering the best type of climate for your bees? If YES, here are the best types of climate to raise your bees. Climate is one of the biggest challenges that most beekeepers do not prepare for in advance. The climate dictates the management style you employ in your bee farm and the time factor.
It is critical to note that each type of colony is unique. But according to reports, the original habitats of the honey bee are tropical climates and heavily forested areas. Honey bees can thrive in natural or domesticated environments, though they prefer to live in gardens, woodlands, orchards, meadows, and other areas where flowering plants are abundant. Within their natural habitat, honey bees build nests inside tree cavities and under the edges of objects to hide or elude predators.
A good number of people believe that honey bees originated in Africa and spread to northern Europe, eastern India, China, and the Americas. However, since honey bees have been domesticated to produce honey for human consumption, they are now found all over the world in various habitats and varying climates.
Honey bees in temperate climates, such as European honey bees, are known to store larger amounts of honey than other subspecies, as they intend to maintain a certain temperature inside the nest to survive during winter. Bees living in these climates tend to adapt well to their environment only when workers have built a large nest with well-insulated interiors. To collect enough honey for the next winter, foragers swarm early in the spring.
Since honey bees in tropical habitats, such as African honey bees, do not experience long weeks of cold weather, they have no need to build large and well-insulated nests, produce thousands of workers or store large amounts of honey. For a honey bee in a tropical habitat, swarming mainly depends on the abundance of food sources, rather than seasonal factors.
During winter, honey bees consume honey and leverage their metabolic heat to offer warmth to all individuals of a colony. On the contrary, honey bees use the liquid from stored nectar as an evaporative coolant during warmer seasons. Note that these methods ensure that seasonal changes do not influence negatively their interior habitats.
What is the Best Type of Climate for Beekeeping?
Beehive temperature is indeed very important to good honey and bee health no matter where the hive is located. In North America, temperatures throughout the year can get as high as 115° F (46 °C) and as low as 40° F below zero (-40° C). These temperature extremes can kill bees and decrease honey production or quality. However, here are different temperatures and the best way to help your bees.
1. Hot Weather
During periods of excessive heat or an abundance of nectar, bees are known to beat their wings to renew the hive’s atmosphere. Ventilation is at the center of honey making. The foragers pass on the nectar gathered from the flowers into the mouths of other worker bees, who then store it in the hive’s cells.
Note that this nectar is dehydrated by the movement of the air produced by the fanning bees’ wings. It becomes honey when the moisture content reaches 17%. Beehives need to be kept at 95° F to be the right temperature to produce honey.
However, if the temperature becomes hotter than 95 degrees the bees will station themselves throughout the hive and fan their wings. Note there will be many on the bottom board, the board they land on when the bees fly home, fanning their wings.
It is wonderful because the bees will provide enough ventilation to keep the temperature in the hive at 95° F. If the brood, the baby bees, get hotter than 95° they will die. Most of the time, bees are pretty good at managing hive temperature on their own. But there are a few things you can do to make it easier for them in the heat of summer.
- Shade: Position your hives in a partially shaded area. If you don’t have a suitable spot on your property, or if it’s too daunting to move your hives to a shadier spot, you should consider rigging up a shade cloth or even a sun umbrella on the hottest days.
- Choose wooden roofs: Metal hive roofs may last longer, but they also conduct heat and increase the temperature in the hive. When you buy hives, it is advisable you go for wood in a light color instead. If you’ve already installed metal roofing and your bees are overheating, try covering the roofs with a light-colored material to deflect some of the heat – plastic sheeting or even light cardboard could help.
- Water: Also have it in mind that bees need water to keep the hive at the right temperature, so make sure they have a pond, tank, or bucket nearby. You should make it easy for them by providing stones or plants to land on while they drink – they can drown if they try to land on deeper water. If you don’t have a natural water source, make sure it’s refilled frequently, especially in summer.
- Ventilation: Also note that ventilating your hives helps release trapped heat and circulate air more freely. But it needs to be done carefully, so the smell of honey doesn’t encourage robbing – where other bees or insects enter the hive.
If you think your hives are overheating, one way to improve ventilation is by drilling one or two small holes in the top super, then covering with mesh to prevent robbing. Since heat rises, vents at the top are most effective, but screened bottom boards can also help with the airflow.
- Insulate: Hive insulation is more or less designed to keep hives warm in winter, but it can also help to maintain a lower temperature during the summer months. Roof insulation, in particular, can help keep the temperature stable as it reduces the impact of direct sunlight on the hive.
- Colour choice: Since dark colors absorb heat, choose white or another pale color when you paint your hives.
- Layout: Also note that some beekeepers reduce the number of frames per super during summer – for example, using nine frames in a ten-frame super – to increase airflow in the hive.
2. Cold Weather
Have it in mind that the temperature the bees keep the hive is also the perfect temperature to rear brood, the baby bees. If the brood temperature gets below 95 degrees it will die. If the weather turns cold, the bees will cluster over the brood in the frame to keep the brood at 95 degrees, even if the temperature is -40°.
The bees on the inside of the cluster will move toward the outside of the cluster and the bees on the outside of the cluster will move toward the inside of the cluster. Note that by moving their muscles, they produce heat.
If you were to open a hive when the temperature was cold a frame would look like it had cellophane plastic over it since the bees overlap their wings, keeping the heat on the frame, thus warming the brood. Winter possess a challenge as many bee farmers lose a lot of bees during this time. You therefore need expert skills and knowledge to manage your beehive during winter. Here are a few ways to help your bees during cold weather.
- Move Your Bees: It is imperative as a beekeeper to keep abreast of the climatic changes in your region. When you see winter approaching, it is necessary to make the necessary preparations. Find a place that has full access to sunlight when it is available. It is essential to try and keep the bees as warm as possible during winter. When you find a great place, be innovative and move your bees there.
- Provide the Bees with a Wind Breaker: It is imperative to protect the bees against the strong winds and the winter storms that arise. Many people lose their bees each year due to winter disasters. Such occurrences cause substantial economic losses to bee farmers.
You can move your bees to a location that has trees. Another option is to create a stable and robust fence around the apiary. The wind blockers will help prevent the strong wind from blowing to the apiary and exposing the bees to extreme temperatures.
- Reduce the Size of the Hive: Most times during winter, the beehives tend to shrink in preparation for the winter. It is imperative at this time to take to take out part of the hive. Reducing the number of boxes is critical in lowering idle and empty spaces to maximize warm temperatures. The number of bees decreases over the winter period for one reason or the other.
- Feed Your Bees Regularly: During the hot weather, bees can leave the hive and fly around to look for food. However, during the winter, the bees do not move around at all. The cold outside discourages much movement. It is imperative to make sure that you find food for the bees before the winter creeps in.
- Keep checking on the Bees from Time to Time: It is not advisable to keep opening the lid of the boxes during the cold winter. It is necessary however to check out and see if there are any inconsistencies in the state of the bees. You can check on whether the windbreakers are still in place and take corrective action.
You can either add other windbreakers or move the boxes to other conducive places. On the days that the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, open the lids and check on the bees. Find out if the food supply is enough and whether the number of bees is correct.
Honey bees are amazingly adaptable animals – that is why they are able to survive in different climates all over the world. If a beehive gets too hot, the bee brood dies and the honey gets dehydrated too quickly. If a beehive gets too cold, broods die off and the nectar cannot dehydrate fast enough to make honey. Ninety-five degrees is the exact right temperature for a hive.