Bees in the Summer

It's hot outside! No. for real, it is HOT outside. Here in Athens, Georgia we are hitting the mid nineties every single day. And its not just the heat. The humidity is becoming oppressive. Lately I have foregone ht protective comfort of a bee suit while tending to our hives. It means I end up with a few more stings but beekeepers are used to stings. A few here and there are better, in my opinion, than being trapped in a thick bee suit while the temperature outside is pushing a hundred degrees. I'll take the stings so you can get your precious honey. Don't say I never did anything for you. 

I want to say that summer is upon us but in reality, it's almost gone. I don't know where it went but these lazy summer days are rapidly coming to a close. My eldest daughter starts kindergarten in less than a week. I could have sworn I had more time with her. Soon you will be able to taste the crisp hint of fall in the air and the sounds of football will roar through the streets of our college town. Fall in Athens is in many ways, the reward for those of us who have to slog through the heat of the summer. But there will be things we miss about this time of year once its gone. Lazy weekend days at the pool, the thump of a ripe watermelon, fireflies flashing in the trees.

But for now we are still in the heat of the summer even if the calendar says we are near its end. Regardless of the temperature outside though the bees are able to maintain the internal temperature of their hives at a balmy 94 degrees. I would be calling an A/C repairman if my house was that hot but the honeybee works very hard to regulate the temperature of their hives at all times. During the summer that means that thousands of bees will stand outside their hive, fanning their wings to force air inside the hive. Inside, the rest of the bees keep fanning the air with their own wings. As long as they have decent access to water the bees can do this as long as they want.

On particularly hot and muggy evenings the bees will "beard" on the outside of the hives. It is exactly what it sounds like, a large mass of bees hanging out on the front of the hives looking like a moving, buzzing beard. This helps them cool off and to cool the inside of the hive. It is the equivalent of sitting on your front porch with a glass of cold lemonade and just watching the world go by.

The bees are incredibly active at this time of year although, with little reward. At this moment there are plants blossoming that produce wonderful nectar for bees to collect. Out west clover is in full bloom, and in the Appalachian foothills the Sourwood harvest is taking place. But here in the Classic City there is not much currently producing nectar to entice the bees. Sure, there are flowers out there but nothing like the spring flow. Our bees go out into the world everyday and come back with their legs covered in thick orange pollen.They are finding food sources but they are expending much more energy to do so. 

Right now they are preparing to overwinter by making as much honey as possible to feed their colony through the cold months. We do what we can to help as needed, some food here, extra supers (bee boxes) there, but as with most things with bees we find that if we step back and let them take control of their growth they do just fine. As the weather gets colder in future weeks the bees will slow down much like us. But for now it seems like they are doing exactly what most of us are desperately trying to do... making the most with the time we have left.


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