Hot Girl (beekeeper) Summer

Well, Summer is here (ew) and it’s time to do what I do every Summer and that is-hot hybernate. Yes I made that up. That’s when I just stay indoors and wait for the heat to pass. Beekeepers have some special challenges when it comes to heat and I want to talk about them in this blog. We have to wear those damn beekeeping suits, we often end up being outside for a longer amount of time than expected, and bees are often more aggressive during the Summer.

Over the past years I’ve learned a few tips about how to keep cool during a hot girl beekeeper summer. I created this blog so I can share some of those things with you! But first, some before and after photos of me before a 5-hour beekeeping sesh in 90 degree heat.

I’ve always had a tough time during Summer and I am the first one to get a headache as soon as I get overheated, which doesn’t take long. If I could live somewhere it’s between 50-60 year round I would! I’m happy until it’s around 80 degrees. One reason I move to Tennessee is for the seasons. In Florida it’s still in the 90’s in November and it feels like Summer lasts for a couple seasons.

It’s tough for me to get out and do bee stuff when it’s too hot. Let’s face it, heat can be difficult for anyone. Some people ignore it and end up being the ones who pass out at concerts or other outdoor events. I have a friend who sells her copper jewlery at markets locally that experienced some heat exhaustion this week. She got a headache at her event and was throwing up! She had to cancel the next days event in order to recover.

Working hives in 90 degree heat

Nobody wants to suffer due to the heat! It can be challenging for beekeepers for several reasons.

1. Protective Clothing

  • Heat Retention: Beekeepers wear protective suits, gloves, and veils to prevent stings. I think they give off the illusion of “cool” because they are white and they look airy but this gear is typically made of thick material that retains heat, making it difficult for the body to cool down.
  • Limited Ventilation: The design of protective gear often limits ventilation, further exacerbating heat buildup.

2. Physical Exertion

  • Manual Labor: Honey is heavy! Beekeeping involves physically demanding tasks. Lifting heavy hive boxes, inspecting frames, and managing equipment. Loading and unloading vehicles. These things can increase body temperature and lead to quicker exhaustion in hot conditions.
  • Extended Time Outdoors: Beekeepers spend long hours working outdoors, often in direct sunlight, which increases exposure to high temperatures and increases risk of heat related illness.

3. Dehydration Risk

  • Sweating: High temperatures cause increased sweating, leading to fluid loss. Wearing protective gear can make it difficult to stay hydrated, as removing the suit frequently to drink water is impractical. When you work with a bunch of angry flying insects you don’t want to constantly take breaks, you just want to get finished.
  • Limited Breaks: Continuous work without adequate hydration breaks can lead to dehydration, which impairs physical and cognitive performance.
New hive for these bees

4. Health Risk

  • Heat-Related Illnesses: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke, which are serious health risks for beekeepers.
  • Fatigue: Working in the heat can lead to quicker fatigue, reducing productivity and increasing the risk of mistakes and injuries.

5. Bee Behavior

  • Increased Aggression: High temperatures can make bees more irritable and aggressive, increasing the risk of stings and making it more stressful to manage hives.
  • Colony Stress: Heat can stress bee colonies, affecting their behavior and productivity, which adds to the challenges beekeepers face during inspections and hive management.

There are some precautions beekeepers can take in order to reduce risk of heat-related illness. Make sure you keep an eye on red flags of heat exhaustion or heat related illness.

Tips for Beekeepers to Manage Heat

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after working with bees. Coconut water is high in naturally occuring electrolytes. Bananas and potatoes are rich in potassium and can help you stay hydrated, too.
  • Eat Foods With A High Water Content: Cool foods like melons, cucumber, mint, leafy greens, lemon, avocado, and coconut. These are a few “cooling” foods that you could keep with you while in the apiary. You could also put some mint or cucumber in your water. Make sure you are drinking water even if you aren’t thirsty.
  • Cooling Towels: Consider a cooling towel or something that goes around your neck to keep you cool. I prefer this one from Amazon.
  • Work During Cooler Times: Schedule beekeeping activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. Here in Eastern TN the coolest part of the day is the morning!
  • Use Ventilated Suits: Invest in ventilated beekeeping suits that allow for better airflow while still providing protection. Wear as little clothing as possible under your bee suit.
  • Take Frequent Breaks: Take regular breaks in the shade or a cooler area to rest and rehydrate.
  • Monitor Health: Sometimes we get caught up in what we’re doing and we forget to check in with ourselves. Make sure you are not only checking in with yourself but check in with others around you. Help hold each other accountable and take breaks! Be aware of the signs of heat-related illnesses and take immediate action if symptoms occur.