July 28, 2022

Dealing With Heat in the Beeyard (084)

Dealing With Heat in the Beeyard (084)

It’s hot out there and it looks like it isn’t going to cool off for most of us for awhile. Also, since mite treatments should be starting now, getting honey off in the heat is the rule of the day. So how do you stay cool when it’s hot out there?...

It’s hot out there and it looks like it isn’t going to cool off for most of us for awhile. Also, since mite treatments should be starting now, getting honey off in the heat is the rule of the day. So how do you stay cool when it’s hot out there? Well, Kim and Jim take a good long look at how to stay cool and what happens if you overdo in the heat.

Updated: August 2, 2022 - In the photo below, Master Beekeeper and Beekeeping Today Podcast Regional Guest, Paul Longwell, models his neck fan while wearing a Sheriff's jacket purchased through Honey Bee Obscura sponsor, Betterbee! (Thanks, Paul for sending in the photo!)

We hope you enjoyed today's episode. Please follow or subscribe today and leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you!


Thanks to Betterbee for sponsoring today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 84 – Dealing With Heat in the Beeyard


Jim Tew: It's the middle of the summer right now and it's hot out there. Kim, do you have any advice on how someone our age should work bees when it's this hot?

Kim Flottum: I do. I'm not going to say I've made a study of it, but [background music] Ann Harmon and I, long ago, made a study of it and we came up with some good advice.

Jim: Well, I honestly didn't know that. I'm glad to hear it. I'm glad we can talk about it for a while. Hi, I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: We're coming to you from Honey Bee Obscura where each Thursday, we talk about different topics pertaining to something in beekeeping, most of the time.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew, explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world.

Get ready for an engaging discussion to delight and inform all beekeepers. If you're a long-timer or just starting out, sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.

Jim: Kim, every year, this happens every year, every year. I start out in the spring of the year, it's apple blossoms and bees are flying and it's beautiful weather, and I just love it. By the time mid-July or early August gets here, the personality of the yards changed. My personality has changed and I don't want to go out there. The stings hurt worse, and the bees were feisty. How do you work bees in hot weather when you really need to open them up?

Kim: Well, I just got to add one more thing to what's going on out there right now. This time of the year, the boxes are heavier. You got to add that in with the bee stings and all of that. I got to tell you, working hard in hot weather can be fatal. It can kill you if you're not paying attention. The first thing to do is pay attention.

The easiest thing to do is to time the time of day you're going to be out there working, early morning, later afternoon, maybe even early evening. You can also look at the time of day where the shade is. If your bees are in full sun all day, every day, that's one thing but if they're in full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, or vice versa, you can do your work and work in the shade.

Jim: I'm a firm believer in shade. I grew up starting my career in beekeeping in Alabama, North Florida, and it was really hot. It was extraordinarily hot and fire ants and all these other issues were a constant. You learn quick that always have a gallon of water and keep the bees in the shade, where it just gets down to the low 90s in the shade.

Kim: [chuckles] I'll go half a step farther with that gallon of water is, a good rule of thumb, no matter what you're doing outside in the summer is hydrate yesterday. Drink lots and lots of water yesterday, so that you've got plenty stored today. Keep drinking it today but if you know you're going to be out in the sun, working hard tomorrow, start drinking water today.

Jim: Well, I would agree with that. When you say that-- I'm not selling veils. Like you, I have multiple models of veils but increased it in the last few years, veils are available that unzip, the front of the veil opens up and that's really handy in hot climates. You can just pop that zipper up for about three inches, stick a straw through that opening, and drink water. Instead of having to unzip the whole veil, take the whole thing off to get to it.

Kim: Well, a couple of things with veils, I've found out. A lot of those veils that you just mentioned, you can open up from the front. They have a closed cloth hood in the back and a screen in the front. Soak that closed cloth part in water before you put it on. It'll run down your neck, it'll keep you a lot cooler than you'd believe. Like you said, it's easy to get a drink.

Jim: How can we put a positive spin on this, Kim? I'm thinking while you're talking [chuckles] that this is really sounding like, "Oh, yes, this is just barrels of fun. Let's go out and work bees in full suits on the heat of the day." It is fun. You're only doing this for a short time. If you're like, you and me and we're just-- I guess we're a hobby beekeepers now.

Kim: [chuckles] No guess about it. [chuckles]

Jim: Yes, no guess about it but if you're keeping a lot of bees, this just work, make no mistake about it.

Kim: It is and no matter where you are at this time of the year, the boxes get heavier. What you did back in May and June, is going to be-- Well, one would hope, twice as much work. Now it's late July in the middle of the heat. Something else, there's a thing out there called a neck fan and it goes around your neck. It hangs down below your chin and it's got two little fans on each side. If you put that on just right, it'll blow cool air into your bee suit all afternoon.

Jim: I have no idea what you're talking about. Is this a general device on the web or is this something in a bee catalog?

Kim: Well, I found it on the web. Somebody told me that that's what they were using. I went and looked and it's no weight, essentially, and it blows cool air down your neck, down the front of your shirt all afternoon. That's one thing.

Now, the last time I used this, I was outside, I was drinking water. I spilled a whole bunch through that straw thing that I was trying to drink down the front of my suit. That neck fan evaporated that water in evaporative cooling, I was almost cold.

Jim: Well, Kim, you sound like a salesperson-


Jim: -because I'd use it in the bee yard but also, I overheat just running a weed trimmer, knocking down weeds in the ditch. I have no idea what this device is and I will honestly check it out when you and I finish this discussion.

Kim: You mentioned keeping a gallon of water. Every time you can take a quick break and take a sip of that water, do it, just because when you're sweating, that's water that's coming out of your body that isn't being replaced.

Jim: This is solid information. Is this information you got from your editor days at Bee Culture?

Kim: Well, like I said, I worked with Ann Harmon and when she was around, did some work on this for articles for a couple of three summers. We investigated it because, at the time, I didn't know much about-- Are you ready for this? Heat cramps, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion. That last one will kill you if you're not taking care of it. Do you ever had them, ever have heat cramps?

Jim: No. Well, maybe you should tell me if I have. I don't think and I've been in some hot climates, but--

Kim: Well, people who aren't used to working in hot climates, that's a lot of beekeepers because we're outside a lot, but we're not [crosstalk]- -

Jim: Right. I'm not really prepared to work anymore.

Kim: Heat cramps, you're going to get some spasms in your legs, in your arms, maybe your abdomen. It's when you've been doing hard work and suddenly, you get cramps in your-- I've had them one time in my biceps, in my arms. I've known people who've gotten them in their abdomen, too. Your stomach just squeeze this shut, cramps up and you got to sit down. That's your body telling you, you're working too hard, your body temperature's too hot, slow down, hydrate, cool off.

Jim: I guess it's pertinent for any age at some level. You're not just talking about people, mine and your age, in our 70s. Even younger and healthier people can overdo it. Is that what you're saying?

Kim: Exactly right. In my USDA days, when we were out working, there were people-- The summer help, big guys hired because they hired muscles. These guys would come in, "Yes, I can lift two of those," and suddenly, they're cramping up. If they don't know or if the people that are with them don't know, what they did, what a couple of guys did was ignore it. They just said, "I'm tougher than this, I can do this," and they ignored it.

Then you're looking at heat exhaustion coming in, and heat exhaustion-- I don't think it'll kill you but boy, I tell you, if you've ever seen somebody with heat exhaustion, sweating, it's four times what you and I would sweat normally on a hot day. It's just pouring out of them.

Jim: Kim, you've [chuckles] worn me out here, Kim. Let's take a short break. Let our sponsor talk to us while I rest stop, get a drink of water. I'll be right back.

Kim: Good idea.


[background music]

Betterbee: Looking forward to reaping the benefits of your hard work by harvesting honey, sure you are. That getting the process started can be daunting. That's why Better Bee is here to help. We've teamed up with our friends over at Bee Smart Designs to offer a beginner's extracting kit. Especially for you because you listen to this podcast, you'll get 30% off regular pricing, but only through August 30th, 2022. Go now and order your kit.

It includes our two-frame plastic extractor, the Bee Smart Designs on capper combo, a plastic honey sit, and a five-gallon pail with a honey gate. Visit betterbee.com/begin to make extracting easy.

Kim: Well, heat exhaustion's bad enough and you can recover from that by yourself, sitting in the shade, pouring water on your head. If you're stubborn or not very bright if you're stubborn, heat strokes the next step and that's the one that will kill you.

When you get to that point, your body can no longer control your temperature. You quit sweating, believe it or not, and your body temperature continues to go up and it continues. It can go up to 106, maybe a little bit more. Your temperature goes up. This is like five minutes, you go from hot to dizzy, swooning, tipping over, all sorts of things, all sorts of symptoms to tell you that "This thing is not good and I got to do something right now."

What you need is if you're working alone, you could be in trouble. If suddenly you get so dizzy, you can't walk, you tip over, you might not be able to get up. It's that debilitating.

A couple of things to do with that, one is don't go alone or have somebody watching you from the house. Have your spouse or one of your kids just look out the window every once in a while. "He's not standing up anymore, mom, maybe we should do something."


Jim: How long should he be laying down before we go out there?


Kim: That brings up another point. Does your spouse know where every one of your bee yards are? Could she direct a police or an emergency vehicle to every one of your bee yards?

Jim: I'm going to get in trouble here because, no, she couldn't. My wife is just glad to see me leave most of the time to go to our bee yard. I guess I better be serious here. I doubt that my wife could send them to our bee yard. I've always depended on my phone. Somebody tracking my phone or me calling 911 or something. What if I don't have reception or what if I collapse before I can activate the phone?

Kim: Exactly. Draw a map, make a map, do something so that when you don't come home for supper, they know where to send the ambulance.

Jim: I'm overwhelmed here, Kim. This has started off hot and heavy if you'd pardon the punt, but it is. When you put on that full suit if you're going to really be working bees, you're taking off honey and you're really smoking the bees because it's that season of the year and the flow is over. It does get hot and people listening right now think, "For God, jeez-o-Pete, I would have enough sense to quit."

Let me tell you what it's like. You've driven 40 miles to get wherever you're going or 20 miles or whatever. You got the smokers fired off, maybe you got a friend with you or not. You're working and you're getting this stuff done. You just don't want to stop because you want to finish this thing before the smoker goes out, before the frame burns up before it's time to go home and you'll keep pushing. I know you think you'd have enough sense to quit, but it's a tiresome job in some cases, and you want to get it over with. You keep going until I'm afraid-- Sometimes people our age and maybe younger can reach these plateaus you've talked about.

Kim: Not millions of people die a heat stroke every year, but people die a heat stroke every summer. I just assume it wouldn't be you or me or anyone listening to this. If you know the signs of going in for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, you know what to do yesterday and you know what to do before you go out there. Staying cool can be pretty easy, but if you're dedicated and you got a time constraint, it might get ahead of you. Just keep it in the back of your mind.

Jim: I'm not sure what I'll do differently, but I like having these justifications for why I should just stay in the house where it's air-conditioned and cool, and not go out and do all this bee work. Actually, I'm being sarcastically funny because I do have varroa issues, I need to deal with and some tests I promised to run. I will be out there. I'll do the Alabama thing I used to do, and I'll do it as early as I can in the morning.

Kim: Smart move.

Jim: If you don't pick out the right morning, you still have high humidity. You can still lather up even on a coolish morning if it thunderstorm the night before.

Kim: Like I said, knowing what could happen going in and what you can do to prevent it, get to 99% of the way there without any trouble. Start yesterday, start hydrating, bring cool stuff with you, know when you need to slow down and you'll be okay.

Jim: If I'm your audience of one, right now, this is what I'm taking away from this. Number 1, let my wife know where I am or someone know where I am, probably my wife. Number 2, have water with you. Number 3, take the phone with you. Number 4, in no particular order, realize if you're pushing if you're really hot if you're really labored for breath that even though it may be inconvenient, you may have to come back tomorrow. Know when to bend, to back it down some, based on the things you've told me. Right or wrong? [background music]

Kim: yes, you got it right.

Jim: I hope we've cheered everyone up who listened to it-


Jim: -and given them endless excuses why they should just wait till much later in the year to take honey off.

Kim: There you go. All right.

Jim: That would work too. You can take honey off in November, it's a lot easier than--


Jim: Kim, I always enjoy talking to you. For everybody who listens, you know we always appreciate that, too.

Kim: I'll talk to you next time, Jim. In the meantime stay cool.

Jim: I'll do the best I can to stay cool in these hot summer months.


[00:16:01] [END OF AUDIO]