Honey bees can be just as temperamental about the weather as we can. If you try to inspect your beehive on a rainy, cold day, you’re likely going to get a swarm of bees to the face. Many beekeeping experts will tell you that you want an ideal hive inspection temperature and conditions to ensure that you don’t harm yourself or the bees.
Hive Inspection Temperature
No matter the time of year, you need to consider a couple of things before inspecting your beehive.
Are your Bees out Foraging?
If they are, now is a good time to do a hive inspection. Because the bees are busy working for the hive, they are less likely to be bothered by you.
Fewer bees also make it so that fewer bees are squashed in the process of moving hive parts around. Moreover, it makes the whole process easier – you can see more combs clearly and worry less.
How do the Bees Sound?
Are they humming peacefully, or does it sound like a rampage inside the hive? If the former is true, it’s an excellent time to inspect. If the latter is true, you may want to stay away.
Bees can become bothered for many reasons – pests, inclement weather, a queen missing, etc. If they are trying to fix an issue within the hive, there is not a lot you can likely do but bother them anyway.
Is the Weather Bothering you?
If the weather is bothering you, it will likely bother your bees too. Try only to conduct hive inspections when the sun is out (unless it’s too hot).
You will need to inspect the hive during every season for different reasons. When you do this and how you approach it will alter how your bees succeed and how many stings you receive each year.
You may want to check on the success of your bees’ overwintering when spring hits. However, it’s commonly known that you should never handle your bees if the temperature is below 60F. Bees cannot fly when temperatures drop to 50F; therefore, you might be risking their safety.
After it reaches 60F, you will be able to begin inspecting the hive regularly. In mid-morning, or when they are out foraging, you can start to check for cleaning, disease, and honey at this time of year.
Since it’s rarely below 60F in the summer, you shouldn’t have to worry about too low temperatures for a hive inspection. However, the ideal hive inspection temperature is between 60F and 100F because high heat can also be dangerous for bees.
When it reaches above 100, bees rarely leave the hive. At this point, they will likely be fanning the nest out and sitting around its edges to ensure that the brood survives. They may be defensive and agitated if you try to interact at this time.
In addition, there are two other reasons why doing hive inspections during hot weather can be a bad idea:
- Robbing, or bees stealing honey from other hives, occurs most commonly during the peak of summer. Because of this, your bees may be more defensive during this time.
- Sticking full frames out in the direct sunlight can cause beeswax to melt, which in turn, can ruin the combs. If this happens, your bees have a lower shot of overwintering successfully.
In the autumn, not much work needs to be done. However, if your bees have created excess honey storage, you will want to harvest the rest of your honey for the year. Again, keep in mind that you won’t want to do a hive inspection if the weather is bad or the temperature is below 60F.
Winter is an especially tricky time for hive inspections. Bees don’t often leave the hive in the winter, so handling them and their environment can be troublesome – both for you and the bees. When the temperatures get cold, bees maintain the temperature of the hive by vibrating their wings and bodies.
The only reason for inspections during this time should be to provide supplemental feeding. Hive inspections should be short as not to lower the temperature too long.
The only other consideration to take into account when doing hive inspections is daylight. Unless an emergency, doing hive inspections at night should be a no-no. Although they have eight eyes, honey bees don’t have excellent night vision. If you visit them during this time, they may feel vulnerable and may sting more readily.
The ideal hive inspection temperature varies between 60F to 100F. Anywhere outside of this range will harm your bees and can result in the colony suffering. In addition, bees should not be handled during inclement weather, if the hive is buzzing loudly, and when the bees are all in the hive at once.
Good times to do hive inspections depend on the reason and season, but will largely be within times that bees are foraging and when the weather will not disturb them, their brood, or the combs.