Mild hormetic heat treatments early in life can significantly increase the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans. We have examined the effects of heat treatments at different ages and show that treatments early in life cause the largest increases in lifespan. We also find that repeated mild heat treatments throughout life have a larger effect on lifespan compared to a single mild heat treatment early in life. We hypothesize that the magnitude of the hormetic effect is related to the levels of heat shock protein expression. Following heat treatment young worms show a dramatic increase in the levels of the small heat shock protein HSP-16 whereas old worms are a 100-fold less responsive. The levels of the heat shock proteins HSP-4 and HSP-16 correlate well with the effects on lifespan by the hormetic treatments.