Beekeeping in the summer can be dangerous, if you aren’t careful.

Sooner or later, you realize the hard truth: caring for bees can be very heavy work. Working bees in the middle of the day is the usual recommendation for the best time to open hives. But when the heat and humidity build up, that middle of the day suggestion could be a bad choice.

So, shift your beekeeping to earlier in the day, if you can. And plan ahead; make sure all your equipment is ready for you at the start of a session so that you can get started promptly.

Dress for the weather

Beekeeping clothing can add to the physical stress on your body. Unless you keep your hives in a public place, most of the time you are on your own. Under those circumstances, who says you must have a full set of street clothing on underneath your gear? While it might be awkward if someone invites you out to lunch, having nothing but underwear on beneath your bee suit can make a big difference in your comfort.

A simple thing like a sweat band on your forehead can make you more comfortable as you work. Many people find an English-style (fencer’s) veil cooler than a veil with a hat band and brim.

And gloves – nothing can make you feel more wretched in hot weather than elbow-length canvas sleeves attached to leather gloves. See if you can bring yourself to work wearing just nitrile gloves or even bare hands. If nitrile gloves make your hands too sweaty, cut off the tips of the fingers to allow the sweat to run directly out.

And from time to time, make an investment in your comfort for the next time you work bees by washing your gear. Grubby, stiff-from-dried sweat gear feels hotter because it is hotter to be in once the threads get so much dirt embedded into them. See this article for how to wash your bee clothing and gloves.

Pay attention to the fundamentals of heavy, outdoor, exercise, too

Stay hydrated by drinking water ahead of time and keep steadily replacing lost fluids with lots of water or sports drinks.

Use sunscreen on your face and hands.

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.

When harvesting honey, bring a helper

Even the shallowest boxes, when full of capped honey, are heavy and awkward. And the bees probably aren’t too happy about the removal either. Two workers, assisting each other with lifting off the boxes, can make a grueling job much easier.

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!