Yesterday a reader from Florida asked for specific instructions on how to keep a hive well ventilated in a hot and humid climate. This is a good question. Although colonies can usually survive hot and humid conditions, they will produce more honey and be less stressed if they don’t have to spend all their energy cooling the hive. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep the hive up off the ground. By placing the hive on a stand, you allow air to circulate on all sides—including the bottom.
- Use a screened bottom board without the Varroa tray. A screened bottom allows air to circulate into the hive from underneath, and it has a much larger surface area than a standard entrance.
- Use an upper entrance. An upper entrance, either drilled in the top hive body or cut into an inner cover, allows the hive to behave much like a chimney. Air will come into the hive from the bottom entrance or screened bottom and exit through the upper entrance.
- Even better than an upper entrance is a ventilated inner cover. A ventilated inner cover is screened in the center and has end pieces that are higher than the side pieces. These end pieces hold the telescoping cover aloft so air can circulate through the sides. The screening should be small enough to keep out robbing bees. (see photo below)
- Keep your hive in the shade. Left to their own devices, bees will usually select shaded areas in which to live. A little morning sun is fine, but a shady location will allow the bees to spend their afternoons foraging instead of fanning.
- Hives in hot locations should be painted light colors and have a white or metallic roof.
- Place a slatted rack under the bottom brood box. Slatted racks can aid ventilation by reducing congestion below the brood nest and providing more space for air movement.
- Do not allow your hive to become too crowded. If the bees need more space give them an extra brood box.
- Make sure your bees have a source of clean drinking water.