Beekeeping in the heat of summer can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. The best time to open hives to work with your bees is usually in the middle of the day — but when the forecast calls for high heat and humidity, that middle-of-the-day suggestion could be a dangerous choice. So, on hot days, shift your beekeeping to earlier in the day, if possible. And plan ahead: make sure your equipment is ready ahead of time so you can get started promptly. Explore our top three tips for beekeeping on hot summer days.

1) Dress for the weather

Protective clothing can add to the physical stress on your body, so when deciding what to wear under your bee suit, choose breathable clothing items. Lightweight pants or shorts and a breathable cotton T-shirt will help keep you cooler than heavy denim jeans or clothing made from synthetic materials. Or, choose tech fabrics designed for comfort in summer heat, including moisture-wicking and cooling T-shirts or temperature-regulating pants.

Beyond your clothing, consider items designed to improve your comfort. Wear a sweatband to help keep sweat out of your eyes. Depending on the material you choose, a sweatband can even provide a little cooling.

Best protective beekeeping gear for hot weather

  • Many people find that an English-style (fencer’s) veil is cooler than a veil with a hat band and brim.
  • The best bee suits for hot weather are constructed with layers of mesh for protection and include vented panels for breathability. You may prefer to wear a vented jacket instead of a full suit — the choice is yours.
  • Choose cooler options when it comes to gloves, too. Leather gloves with elbow-length canvas sleeves may trap heat and sweat. If you’re comfortable, try wearing just nitrile gloves while you work, instead of full-length gloves.

Protective Gear Tip – Wash your bee clothing and gloves regularly. Grubby, stiff-from-dried-sweat gear feels hotter because it traps more heat due to the dirt embedded in the material.

2) Consider proper health and hydration

Self-care doesn’t take a vacation simply because you have work to do. Always ensure you’re protecting yourself by checking in to see how you’re feeling. Just like when playing sports or exercising, follow these guidelines for safety in hot weather:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before heading outdoors, and keep steadily replacing lost fluids with lots of water or sports drinks throughout your tasks and after you head back indoors.
  • Use sunscreen on your face, neck, ears, arms, and hands, and reapply every 90 minutes.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed beekeeping hat to keep the sun off your face and keep harsh summer sun out of your eyes for even more protection.
  • Tie a wet bandana or cooling scarf around your neck to help regulate your body temperature.
  • When working in the heat, choose fiber-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, to snack on.

Don’t forget to protect your bees from the hot weather, as well. They need an adequate water source, shade, ventilation, and hive access to take refuge from the sweltering heat. Sometimes, it’s better — for you and your bees — to wait until the heat subsides to complete your work in the hive.

If you begin to feel nauseated, faint, or crampy, you’re moving out of the realm of simple hard work and possibly into the danger zone. Rest in the shade or your air-conditioned vehicle, then pack up the hives and call it a day. The bees will be relieved that they can get back to managing the conditions of their hive on their own terms — and you can reduce your chances of heat exhaustion.

3) Bring a helper

Especially when harvesting honey, an extra set of hands can be a huge help. Even the shallowest boxes, when full of capped honey, are heavy and awkward to carry. The bees probably aren’t happy about the disturbances, either. Two people working together makes lifting off the boxes much easier, reducing strain and speeding up the process overall.

Beekeeping ought to be a pleasure, at least most of the time. Don’t tempt fate by working in overheated conditions. It’s just not worth it! For more beekeeping tips, explore our Beekeeper’s Guide.