What exactly is Bee Bearding? Is it:
A. When a bee collects pollen under its chin resembling a human beard?
B. When bees gather outside the hive entrance in a shape resembling a beard?
C. Bees who are exceptionally fuzzy?
D. Hipsters who keep tiny beehives in their beards?
If you answered B then you’re right!
We went to check our bees this past weekend and they were bearding at the hive entrance. It’s quite a remarkable site! The bees cluster in a swarm like shape, holding on to one another and it looks as though the hive box has a “beard” of bees at its “chin”.
There are two main reasons bees might beard. The first is to cool down the hive in warm weather, the second is if they are getting ready to swarm. It’s important to find out the reason behind this behavior because if your hive is getting ready to swarm, you might loose half (or more) of your colony. Here are some signs that will help you determine why your bees are bearding.
This is what we expected of our hive since it was a very warm day. Here’s a few questions to help you decide if warmth is behind the bearding.
1. Is it an exceptionally warm day?
2. Are there bees lined up at the entrance faced the same direction beating their wings?
3. Is their ample, unused room in your hive?
If you answer yes to these questions then the bearding activity is most likely heat related.
1. The bees are leaving the hive to cool it off. Too many bees buzzing around inside creates a lot of extra heat.
2. The bees at the entrance faced the same direction are “fanning”. They beat their wings to try to cool the temperature of the hive.
3. If your bees have enough room in the hive to spread out, then chances are they aren’t too crowded and most likely aren’t looking to find a new home.
Swarming is another reason bees might beard at the hive entrance. It important to find out if this is the reason behind the beard, because you may be able to prevent loosing half or more of your colony.
1. Is the hive crowded?
2. Are the temperatures relatively similar to those when the bees weren’t bearding?
3. Are there very active bees buzzing around the bearding bees?
4. Are bees returning from the field and not going in the hive, but instead joining or communicating with the beard?
5. Are their queen cells in your hive?
If you answered yes to most of these questions then you may have a hive that is ready to swarm.
1. Our hive has been so prolific this year that even though our bees were demonstrating many of the heat related bearding behavior, we decided to open the hive just to be sure they had enough room. Which they did, but they’re filling it up fast. In fact, we were even able to harvest a quart of honey while the hive was open.
2. If the temperatures haven’t changed dramatically, then there’s no reason for your bees to suddenly need to cool off the hive.
3. A lot of communication takes place when a hive is ready to swarm. The active bees buzzing around the beard are letting the swarm in on the plan of the move.
4. The bees returning to the swarm are most likely scouts, who go off looking for a possible place for a new home and come back to communicate that to the colony.
5. Queen cells are larger and are arranged vertical to the ground. Presence of these cells means that the hive is preparing to split.
If this is the case of your hive then it’s time to split your hive. At this point, they are in swarm mode and even if you add a box and give them more room, they might be beyond the point of recognizing this as an alternative option to swarming.
It usually takes about three days for the bees to prepare to swarm from the time you first see bearding.
For more information on splitting your hive before your bees swarm, visit my post. Splitting the Hive.
Have your bees ever bearded? What was the reason behind their activity? Share with the community by leaving a comment below or visit our Facebook Page.