It’s summer time in Texas, a time when back to back (…to back to back……) days of triple digit temperatures are very common. Unfortunately, the summer coincides with perhaps the hardest job we do all year: harvesting. It’s tough to stay cool in these temps while wearing full bee gear, and can even be dangerous. Beekeepers are a creative and resourceful bunch, so I did an informal poll last week on social media to pull tips from other beeks on how to stay cool when the temperatures rise. I’ve collected the best responses and shared our own tips below. Hope this list helps you stay cool this summer. Did we miss something? Share your best tips in the comments!
A note about these tips: for hobbyists beekeepers, a hive inspection may mean just examining a few hives over an hour’s time. But for those of us that do this professionally, a full day’s bee work can mean just that: a full day! Many of these tips are geared towards those that are required to spend several or more hours per day outside in the hottest part of the day several days per week.
Hydration Starts Early
I remind our Two Hives’ beeks time and again that hydration starts before you are ever outdoors! The day before you know you will be working in hot temps, focus on drinking extra water and don’t forget to start to replace the salt your body will lose while sweating. A pinch of salt in your water works fine, or try my homemade gatorade recipe:
Tara’s Homemade Gatorade Recipe: Makes 4 servings
- 4 cups warm water
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 4 tbsp honey (more or less to taste)
- ⅛ tsp Himalayan pink salt
Mix all ingredients and place in fridge to cool. Get creative with your juices. I’ve used lemon, lime, watermelon, and orange juice, or sometimes mix a few different juices together.
Of course, don’t forget to keep up the hydration during your bee work and beyond: drink extra water the day after to ensure you are replenishing what you lost. A beek in San Antonio shared that she keeps extra cold watermelon in a cooler in the truck, which sounds like a great way to hydrate! (She also had a bonus tip: save a few pieces to dip in some chilled tequila once the work is done!)
And on that note, you should start early too! On the hottest days, I aim to be in the truck so that I can arrive in the bee yard no later than 7am, if not earlier. The hottest temps of the day don’t usually set in til late morning at least, and we aim to get as much of the work done as possible in the cooler morning temperatures.
Several beeks mentioned the importance of snacks, particularly if you will be for more than a few hours. Marie in Navasota, TX, recommends eating small, cold protein based snacks throughout the day instead of one larger meal. And of course, make sure you are carrying plenty of water to get you through the day! I recommend investing in a high quality small cooler to carry snacks and ice with you, and bring more water than you think you will need.
Dress for the Job
I cannot recommend a ventilated suit enough. Many bee suits are made from thick canvas material that doesn’t breathe, which just doesn’t cut it when the temps hit triple digits. And don’t be afraid to skimp on the clothing under the suit. Savannah, a beek that chimed in on the poll, recommends wearing bathing suits under your suit (quick drying fabric for the win!!). I normally just wear my undies and a sports bra!
Evie, a member of our team, researched several cooling accessories available on the market. Here’s a few items of interest:
- Chill-Its Cap: This is a spandex cap that can be worn dry to wick sweat away or wet to provide a cooling effect that the manufacturer claims lasts for hours. What I love about this is that unlike other products, it doesn’t have to be frozen first. You can use water from a water bottle to wet it again and again in the bee yards.
- Cooling Vest: This vest can hold up to 20 ice packs to keep your core cool. My biggest concern with this product is the weight that it will add to a job that’s already labor intensive (especially during harvesting.)
- Neck fans: This is a fan that sits around your neck and can provide immediate relief to the face and head. However, I would think it may be cumbersome to try to fit in or around your veil (and may even push your veil to your neck, increasing the likelihood of stings.) But beekeepers Teri and Nikki both love their neck fans and strongly recommend it to help keep cool.
- Frozen wash rags/bandanas: Beekeepers Jen and Valerie both recommended a lower tech option: place wet wash cloths or bandanas in the freezer and pack in a cooler for your day!
Teri of Driftwood, TX was full of suggestions, recommending shorts and tops made from cooling materials (such as COOLMAX), Ergodyne ice vests, and cooling hats (she specifically mentioned the Mission brand).
Tricks in the Bee Yard
Terrah, a former Two Hives team member and a bee remover, leaves her truck running in large yards on the worst days so she can pop in for an A/C break. I realize it sounds inefficient, but I support beeks that may be out for hours at a time doing what they need to do to keep themselves healthy and safe! Brandon, another bee remover, recommends placing your hives where they get afternoon shade. (This is a great tip but unfortunately one that doesn’t work in most of my barren tree-less apiaries!) Robin, a beekeeper in California, even brings out umbrellas or a pop up tent to place over her hives while inspecting on days when the temps approach triple digits.
Did we miss a great keep cool tip? Tell us about it in the comments below!