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Pure speculative ideas thread: solar heating and cooling for beehives?


I am not actually planning on doing about any of the following things neccesarily just vague thoughts…

following on a forum user sad story of his bees being wiped out in the recent US heatwave- I started wondering about possibilities for either cooling or heating beehives. As far as cooling goes it seems a simple evaportive cooling system like an old Australian jury rigged “Coolgardie safe” could be a good idea? Especially in lower humidity areas… The coolgardie idea looks pretty perfect in some ways- it just exchanges the wood fridge part for the bee hive… a modified metal inner cover could act as a heatsink attached to the upper metal coolgardie cooler?

Another passing thought for cooling- a small 12 volt fan in the summer- with a tiny solar panel- to ventilate the hive more? Dehumidify all that honey faster? Or bad idea: fan forced heat/dust nightmare? Perhaps the fan could be linked to the coolgardie to increase heat exchange…

As for heating- I was thinking a passive ‘hydronic’ solar hot water heater- with pipes installed into the roof of a hive- running around to a ‘heat sink’ water tank underneath the bottom brood chamber- could be a nice way to add a bit of daytime heat for the bees in Winter?

Another heating idea is using ‘heat sinks’ to collect winter sun- possibly something as simple as black metal plates on the side of the hive? Also having an extended pitched roof- that blocks the summer sun- but allows the lower angled winter sun to strike the side of the hive? Passive solar? My dad is an architect and designs most of his building that way- it’s a simple and effective method for summer cooling and winter heating.

Would any of these ‘creature comforts’ potentially help the bees? I can see also see many potential pitfalls: cooking the bees, ‘dustifying’ the hive, humidity disasters…

has anyone heard of anyone actually using any gimmicks like this?


A guy in my bee club has used these top covers for years and swears by them
Some people in the northern u.s. Wrap their hives in black tar paper in the winter.


Bees have been taking care of themselves for millennia. They know how to choose a good home but when we interfere and put them somewhere possibly dangerous that’s when we get trouble. If you live somewhere that gets really hot then it makes sense to put the box in the shade. Then insulate it. Insulation takes care of heat and cold. The bees take care of ventilation. They have wings for that.
I know a beekeeper in Finland who puts heating mats under in very early spring to increase brood rearing for the short season they have there.
I don’t know the bees would like a forced fan drought through their home


That’s very interesting! I had a feeling these types of gimmicks had been tried before…

@Dee sure- bees have evolved brilliantly- but humans lived without central heating climate control for at least 100,000 years and thrived too… doesn’t mean we don’t like a heated floor! But I get your point. Why complicate what nature has perfected…


Bees are very good at controlling the temperature and humidity in the hive. Anything you do will work against them most of the time and they will exhaust themselves trying to fix it. Leave them alone.


yes- well- wasn’t it just the other day that I was referencing One Straw Revolution? That book is pretty much all about the art of non-interference and letting organisms grow as they want- not as we want- which is a philosophy I agree with… and as I mentioned I am just playing around…

Having said that I am curious about the idea of a solar fan. A simple set up would only come on whilst the sun was shining- a fan like this perhaps

It would be quite easy to add a thermostat switch so the fan only came on above a certain temperature.

For extra cooling one of these would possibly work even better


Hi Michelle, I think anything (especially solar powered) that helps the bees to keep cooler in the summer or warmer in the winter can only be a good thing. I like the idea of the heating mat, not only during very early spring, but right through winter. If it means that a beekeeper achieves a 100% survival rate coming out of a harsh winter, that would be brilliant.


It’s interesting to hear Jeff- although it’s quite silly- the idea of a hydronic solar heater providing under floor winter heating via a warmed water heat sink appeals to me. the ehat could collect during the day and dissipate into the hive through the night. These sorts of silly ideas probably wouldn’t be at all suitable to commercial operations- but the backyard tinkerer could certainly experiment…

OH- and BTW- I should probably fess up now- my name is actually Jack- I am Michelle’s son. I have been using her forum account- she lurks in the background but doesn’t really post (she goes to the bee society meetings instead). People keep calling me Michelle and I ignored it- it’s kind of amusing that people think/though I am a women.


G’day Jack, that’s fantastic. Great to hear that your interested in bees at I’m guessing, a young age. Say hi to your Mum.

I always click on the profile photo for a possible name.

There was a bloke on the forum (Jape), I haven’t seen him on here for a while, he was talking about some sort of low wattage heat/warming mat for beehives to over winter. I like that idea.

Good to talk to you Jack, take care, bye:)


ummm, ‘the art of non intererence’? that poor dog needs all the help it can get! Anthropomorphism at it’s worst?! :wink:


I like to think 42 is young- it’s all relative…


Haha! Yes I fear that unfortunate mutt needs more help than just a mini solar fan. I guess the pooch needs the fan to help cope with the warmth of the designer jacket…? This is exactly the sort of intervention loop idiocy One Straw Revolution warns against…


Yeah, 42 IS young Jack.


I miss jape’s posts. Stong Opinions? Yes. Worth hearing? Yes.

I just costed a small 10 way 12 volt solar heater off eBay parts for next to nothing:


Combined with


Attach the heat pads to a heat sink below the brood - your away- solar heated hive. Even if it only added s few degrees heat in winter the bees might appreciate it?


thoroughly agree re Japes posts…I assume he’s been ‘removed’?


Yes, I agree @Semaphore (Jack) Hi @Kirsten_Redlich, yes, I also agree about Jape. He made a lot of sense. I’m off to bed, good night.


Certainly hope he hasn’t been censored. Hopefully he is just super busy pulling hundreds of kg’ of honey off every hive in his tiny season.


One thing is clear from all the research I’ve seen on hive ventilation–it is VERY complex. The bees are moving currents up and down and around in order to evaporate water to cool and in order to keep the brood warm, while evaporating honey. I have recently had a similar instance to what I’m trying to point out. I have a large solid brick house. Two foot thick walls inside and out. The basement has three foot thick walls (almost a meter) to hold up those walls. In order to cool the house on a hot day I route air through the basement. I blow it down the front basement stairway. I have two fans in the middle blowing the air to the back of the house and one at the top of the back basement stair blowing it into the house and one in the middle of that room blowing back to the front of the house. In order to work they have to work in unison. However someone in the house keeps turning the fan at the front stairway around thinking they are helping to cool the house because it feels cool to them when they do it. This of course disrupts the whole system of ventilation that I have set up and indeed fights against it. The bees know what they are doing. Stop turning their fan around!



He is alive and well on the www.beekeepingforum.co.uk


Glad to hear that at least. In my readings of older forum posts, it appeared as if someone went through his entire post history and flagged each of them. Every one of his posts were “hidden by the community”. While his writing style may have come off as abrasive or curt; he had some good experience to share. :frowning: I took his style to just be that he wasn’t a native English speaker, and from a different country that has different mannerisms than what’s typical in US/UK/Aus customs.

In the preferences, you* can ignore a specific user if they bother you* that much. Flagging everyone of his posts means that you* don’t think anyone should read what he has to say. That’s not cool.

* I mean “you” in the general/collective sense here. I’m not specifically addressing Dee. If I was southern, I would probably use “y’all” or “you all”, but I’m not. I’m a yankee.