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Temperature extremes & Bee stress


We have just experienced our first very hot dry days, of what everyone is saying, is going to be a very nasty summer.
My question is, in light of expecting continued periods of very high temperatures (mid thirties and above, up to early 40’s), and setting up a new hive at this time of year (Summer in Victoria), what considerations should I make in placement of hive & support requirements?
In reading about Bees & forms of environmental stress I came across this which is quite interesting. ( I intend to be a minimal interference beekeeper, do what is necessary to keep a healthy & happy hive, & enjoy all the incredible talents the bees have.)


‘In a living tree, the honey bee colony is surrounded (usually) by several inches of heart and sap wood plus a layer of living tissue (the cambium) and bark. The R value (1 divided by the thermal conductivity of the material) for the cavity walls in a living tree likely falls between 5 and 15 and perhaps higher, although precise measurements are unavailable. The R factor for a one-inch pine board (which is actually about 0.75 inch) is 1, essentially zero insulation…
Studies have shown that the temperature inside an uninsulated box hive differs little from ambient temperature (Owens, 1971). Thus, depending on locality, internal hive temperatures outside of the cluster may range from -34 degrees Celius to 46 degrees Celcius.’

Stress and Honey Bees


We don’t have extremes of temperature here in the UK so my advice is not from personal experience.
Having said that I’m a great believer in** proper** insulation. My wooden hives are protected by a 50mm PIR jacket that surrounds the whole box, leaving a gap of maybe 1cm all round, except the floor. It sits directly on the crown board with an extra layer of 50mm insulation between.
There is a paper by Derek Mitchell…I can find you a link if you are interested but it’s one of those scientific sites that will charge you for the whole paper.
His wife keeps bees and he is an engineer.
He has made his hives from PIR after much temperature and performance measurement so that they emulate the conditions inside a tree trunk.
I personally consider aluminium backed insulation board to be too short lived. We chatted and the compromise is the jacket round a wooden hive. The rest of my hives are poly and look after themselves re insulation.
The inside of the hive stays at bee temperature all year with minimum bee effort.
They stay cool in the summer and warm and dry in the winter; I never get a drop of condensation inside.

I would add that it cannot be as simple as that. On holiday in Greece one year I came across a chap sitting with his 100 plus hives on a scorched thyme hillside in the middle of summer. The boxes were wooden and painted blue. He told me he looked in his colonies once a year to take what honey he could and left them alone the rest of the time. They swarmed and thrived…minimal interference, you see; he wasn’t fishing into the boxes weekly and pulling out brood frames in the searing summer heat.


@Kirsten_Redlich I’m the same as Dee I have Poly hives and wooden - atm the bees are in one of each - the polly is a really good alternative here due to our changeable weather the bees in the wooden box are insulated with a reflective insulation and a poly feeder left over them to add insulation.

The weather here so far this winter have been quite mild and some spring trees are already blooming so our weather this last year is all over the place.

I’m getting a lazer thermometer soon and I’m hoping to measure the outside of the hive temperature from time to time and see what the ranges are.


Thanks Dee, I would be interested, if you can find the link, thanks. Minimum interference, for me, is definitely the way to go. My concerns are based on predicted, sustained, high temperatures over this summer. I have just taken my dog for a walk, the sun has been down for an hour & a half but its as warm as it was at 3pm this afternoon, no breeze (but at least no north wind). After a week or 2 (& longer) of these high temps I would imagine there must be some effect on the hive.
I was wondering what people do regarding placement (as most recommend place of full sun) & assisting cooling of hive, with minimum interference. If I can set up in best way to begin with then can let them do what they do so well! :wink:
I’m not keen on the Poly because of production/disposal processes & other aspects. Would like to keep to biodegradable materials wherever possible.
It’s the first hive I’ve had of my own bees, so perhaps a little over concerned too!


You need to read the “barefoot beekeeper” http://www.biobees.com/
Phil is a nice bloke who runs weekends for beekeepers and natural methods such as Warre, Top Bar Hives and his peeps have bought him a Flow.

I’ve been on one of his weekends and they are more the hands off type of beeks


@Kirsten_Redlich Have you tried a Coolgardi over the hive to help keep it cooler?

A tub with water in, Hessian or some similar wick-able material drapes into the water and up over the hive. It’s what the old timers used as a fridge prior to electricity in the outback. Very effective.

The natural heat exchange to evaporate the water creates a cooling effect.

"Principles of operation
The Coolgardie Safe was made of wire mesh, hessian, a wooden frame and had a galvanised iron tray on top. The galvanised iron tray was filled with water. The hessian bag was hung over the side with one of the ends in the tray to soak up the water.

Gradually the hessian bag would get wet. When a breeze came it would pass through the wet bag and evaporate the water. This would cool the air inside the safe, and in turn cool the food stored in the safe. This cooling is due to the water in the hessian needing energy to change state and evaporate. This energy is taken from the interior of the safe (metal mesh), thus making the interior cooler. There is a metal tray below the safe to catch excess water from the hessian.

It was usually placed on a veranda where there was a breeze. The Coolgardie safe was a common household item in Australia until the mid-twentieth century. Safes could be purchased ready-made or easily constructed at home. Some of the metal panel safes are highly decorated, showing the creativity of their makers."


:grinning: Thanks Valli, haven’t tried on a hive, but I have my great grandparents coolgardie on our back verandah.


so you know the principle.

Love to see pictures of it


Kirsten, There is no need at all for a cooling system on the outside if you have your boxes insulated properly. It comes down to using PIR which is polystyrene BUT…although polystyrene is not biodegradable it is 100% recyclable.
I expect my poly hives to last as long as the wooden ones…looked after properly.
Derek’s paper is here. He has spent a lot of time and effort on it and I think it hits the nail on the head.

It sounds hot hot where you are. I would put the hive where it gets shade from mid-day. The advantage of morning sun is it gets the bees out earlier but it’s not really important. Not much sunshine inside a tree I suspect.
Valli is right about the weather here in the UK.
It’s nearly one month into winter. I’ve just been out for a run and melted in 13˚.
I still have brood emerging in all my colonies so an oxalic treatment is on the cards in the new year.
I suspect a lot of beekeepers will have a significant varroa problem when they open up in the spring.


Thanks Dee will have a look at it after work today, I get what you are saying re insulation. Would be interesting too, to hear from people insulating against too much heat as well as the extremes of cold which you experience. I suggested they get morning sun as it isn’t as extreme a heat as that from midday onwards. Wouldn’t have been so much of an issue a few years ago, but new arrivals in the area have been very busy cutting down large canopy trees which filtered air/light, plus of course all the other climate changes. Experience a sort of heat island effect, can feel temp rise as you move up the hill. Its a very dry heat also, you can feel the moisture being sucked out of you!
How many colonies have you got Dee & what is your experience of Varroa, have you had any issues with it? I lived in the Cotswolds for a few years & I remember being so excited because it snowed the week before Christmas & we were snowed in most of Christmas Day. Doesn’t sound like you can expect much of that for awhile?
I’ am very glad we haven’t yet got to worry about Varroa.

It’s not just that its not recyclable, its as much what’s used in the processes of making it & that generally whilst products made from it may be quite long lasting, it’s not usually well disposed of.
I think @sciencemaster had made some hives from poly, so would be interesting to hear from him & I think I might do some material research too, & see what alternatives there are to poly in performance etc.
I have a 2nd hive & a nuc coming in Jan.

P.S have just reread this post, is a bit all over the place, sound a bit loopy sorry only few hours sleep, so forgive wording etc :wink:


Found this on this site
What would Langstroth think of insulating bee hives?
By Robert A.L. Williams, Stewart Farm, Harsens Island, Michigan, USA

Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee, A Bee Keeper’s
Manual, by L.L. Langstroth I found the following in Chapter VIII, entitled “Protection against Extremes of
Heat, Cold, and Dampness”: “From these remarks, it will be obvious to the intelligent cultivator, that
protection against extremes of heat and cold, is a point of the VERY, FIRST IMPORTANCE; and yet this is
the very point, which, in proportion to its importance, has been most overlooked. We have discarded,
and very wisely, the straw hives of our ancestors; but such hives, with all their faults, were comparatively
warm in Winter, and cool in Summer. We have undertaken to keep bees, where the cold of Winter, and the heat of Summer are alike intense; and where sudden and severe changes are often fatal to the
brood: and yet we blindly persist in expecting success under circumstances in which any marked success
is well nigh impossible.”
Langstroth refers to “….the folly of pretending to keep bees, in the miserably thin and unprotected hives
to which we have been accustomed.”

and from Yarra Valley Bee Club…


Yes. He was ahead of his time in so many ways.
It’s strange how so many people understand insulation against cold but fail to see it works against heat too.

I have five. I run 14x12s which approximate a Lang deep. 3 are poly and 1 is wood. I had intended to have two colonies in wooden boxes but didn’t get them moved in time.
We have to monitor for varroa regularly here in the UK as most colonies, untreated will be killed in two or three years time. I say most because there is a growing army of non-treaters whose bees seem to survive. I know that letting the bees live on their own comb improves their survival and quality of life, I guess.Deformed Wing Virus variant B (which appears non-pathogenic) infects some bees and protects them against the pernicious common variant. Hygienic bees have been described and there might be some correlation with this behaviour being modified by the B variant. It may be that beekeepers who have a successful treatment-free regime might just be living in a Variant B pocket. So much is not understood.
I suspect varroa is going to be a serious problem for some in the spring.
I myself have had drops of thousands this autumn, last year very few, but I think I’m on top of it.
I don’t like culling drone brood or using pesticides and I have had queen losses with formic acid (MAQS) so I will be trialling using just vaporised oxalic acid and gradually changing all my brood combs to foundations-less
I don’t have the nerve to withdraw all treatment. If I had done so this year I would have lost every colony.


I had a brood break but very little varroa either before or after the break and just checked the bottom boards today and have zilch varroa.

I hefted today as well @Dee seems OK but the wooden box may need some feeding before the year is out. The poly seems fine.

Was going to vape on the winter solstice as a precaution but don’t think I need to


Your colonies stand a better chance of having tolerable varroa levels as they are new.
Natural varroa drop on the board is a vey inaccurate measurement of real levels, as you know.
If you are confident your autumn treatment was effective then you can leave them alone but If they were mine I would still vaporise. It’s a treatment that hardly seems to upset the bees at all. If there is no brood you will get all the little B*****S.


Be aware that vaping anything other than Apibioxal is illegal in the UK
So if you have generic Oxalic expect a knock on the door from the Spanish Inquisition.


I bought it from it from Thornes so should be OK.

I have invented a way to vape I’m going to enter into Honey Show next year


Really curious. You’ll have to tell me…but I guess I’ll have to wait till next year, then.
I’ll tell you how I do it. I have deepened my floors so that I can slide a made to measure stainless steel sheet 10cm under the OMF. The Varrox sits on top of that and is inserted from the back.
I didn’t like doing it through the entrance as I think the vaporiser is too close to the bottom bars.
Commercial guys use a Sublimox which puffs vaporised oxalic under slight pressure from the top. This is a much better way of doing it but the hardware is expensive.
The inspectorate don’t like hobbyists sublimating for some reason so I don’t own up to doing it and I’m certainly not paying through the nose for Apibioxal in little sachets.


My idea is cheap, simple and effetivehttps://www.thorne.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&filter_name=Oxalic&product_id=1708


Cheap but illegal
Any treatment applied to the bees has to be recorded and lot number documented.
Apibioxal is the only licensed treatment.


So why is Thornes selling it?

I was told to get oxalic acid and I asked and was told it is OK?