We arrived home Saturday night at an unusually late hour and, after parking the bikes in the shed, walked past the bee hive on the way into the house. Our motion-sensing lights came on and we saw a very peculiar sight in front of the hive. Clumps of bees were hanging outside on the landing board and the front wall of the hive. A few hundred bees were out there and we couldn’t think of what they were doing like that.
We took some photos on our phones and decided to figure things out in the morning. Perhaps these are just the night watchmen for the hive? Perhaps they were putting some overtime in and cleaning things out? Were they hot? Could they be… no, they couldn’t possibly be… getting ready to
swarm? Shhhh… don’t even say the word.
A (very late) morning session with google gave us our answer. They’re too warm and they were outside cooling off! They were doing a fair bit of fanning (when they point their backsides towards the hive and fan their wings) to get some air currents through the hive. This is known as bearding and it can be quite extensive with massive clumps of bees hanging off of each other outside. Bees will start congregating outside the hive when they are getting ready to swarm as well, but it will generally be in the daytime and accompanied by a lot of noise – a “roaring” buzz. They also will be more scattered all over the hive. The bearding bees will go back in their hive by morning and resume their normal activities.
We’ve now noticed a couple of behaviours related to ventilation and temperature in the hive, so we’ll have to take some steps to get the bees more air circulation in the hive as the summer gets warmer.
Any ideas on how to give them a little more ventilation? Please share some comments!