(Subtitle: No, they’re probably not about to swarm.)
I’ve received quite a few calls from panicking beekeepers lately, concerned about the swath of bees hanging out on the front of the hive.
It’s called bearding, and it is one of my most favorite things about beekeeping. As I recently explained in a recent Facebook post (you can find me on FB under ‘Charlotte Hubbard, Beekeeper and …’), bees do it because they’re at peak population. When the foraging bees return from the fields late afternoon, they just hang out on the “front porch” so the house bees can try and keep things cool inside and dry down nectar into the honey we all love. The foragers will hang out there all night, catching up on the day … hoping for a breeze, discussing politics or the Olympics. Sometimes, if you look closely in the mornings, you might find find little beer cans, chip bags, and a list of places to pollinate the next day. 🙂
Some of these bees are piled 3-4 deep in rows. Scientists suspect that’s so they can channel airflow thru the hive to help dry down nectar. Way to go bees!
If you take a closer look at them (and often, you can do that without them caring at all), you might see them shifting back-and-forth on the wood, maybe a quarter-inch or so. That’s called washboarding … and I haven’t seen any explanations for that bee-havior.
That particular FB post on bearding has been viewed / shared over 3000 times, a new record for me. I guess I’m not the only one who finds it super-cool, even though temperature-wise, it is not. 🙂
If you have bearding going on, I can’t promise you they’re not about to swarm. With our recent rains and the corresponding nectar flow, do make sure your bees have plenty of room to store it all.