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Q & A: should a beehive be insulated?

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Most recent answer: 04/26/2013
Q:
My friend and I are beekeepers. He keeps insulation on the top of the hive only during winter and I keep it on winter and summer. His argument is that it will trap the heat the bees generate inside the hive, causing overheating. I argue that since the bees are good temperature regulators, once they achieve the desired temperature (~95 F)the insulation will help the bees maintain that temp. Who is correct? Thanks in advance!
- carla (age lan)
boulder, colorado
A:
Obviously this question is mostly outside our expertise. Still, there's a little that physics can say about it. Going about their normal lives, bees will generate some heat. like any non-equilibrium system. Whether the summer insulation is a good thing or not probably depends on whether that's enough heat to overheat the hive, or whether they have to do a little extra work beyond that to stay warm enough. If it's the former, the insulation could make trouble, if it's the latter, it can save them some work.

An extremely quick superficial search turns up
, which suggests that in the summer bees have trouble getting rid of heat. They sometimes have to throw up some valuable nectar just to get cool. My guess is that you probably don't want that insulation.

Here's another thing to take into account. The bees have had a long time to evolve to be adjusted to conditions in your area. The only major systematic  change that we know of, global warming, would mean that they probably do best under slightly cooler conditions. That would also suggest skipping the insulation.

Of course a real bee expert might find that we'd left out something very important here.

Mike W.

I grew up on a farm and kept a few bee hives.   Ever inquisitive, and from time to time stung, I observed that during a hot summer day there was a row of bees out in front of the entrance fanning their wings furiously.  I presumed that it was their  way of providing some ventilation into the hive.    LeeH


(published on 04/26/2013)

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