One of the many questions beekeepers encounter is why their bees are “bearding” outside the hive. Bearding is when bees congregate on the front of the hive in large numbers, forming a beard-like appearance. While this behavior can be alarming to novice beekeepers, it is a natural and common occurrence that is usually not cause for concern. In fact, bearding can be a sign that your colony is strong and healthy as it indicates that there are many bees inside the hive working to regulate the temperature and humidity. However, excessive bearding or other unusual behaviors may be a sign of a problem that requires intervention. In this article, I will explore in more detail the reasons why bees beard and what you can do to ensure your colony stays healthy and productive.
What Does Bearding on a Beehive Mean?
As mentioned then, bearding is the term given to a cluster of bees that almost resembles a man’s beard in appearance. You might notice that your bees are bearding at the entrance to the hive, and although it is natural to assume that this means the bees are about to abscond, the reality is that this bearding is caused when the hive becomes too hot for the bees.
As you might imagine then, bearding is much more common during the warmer times of the year. When the external temperature is extremely warm, you can be sure that the temperature inside the hive is very warm too. Your bees will head outside to allow the hive to cool down; they help by fanning their wings outside the hive, which helps to push cool air inside.
The good news for beekeepers is that bearding is generally considered to be a sign of a strong colony with large numbers. When there are more bees inside the hive, their body temperatures can cause the hive to become quite hot, especially on warmer humid days. So the bees will cluster outside in an effort to maintain the internal temperature between the 90F and 97F which is necessary for the curing of honey.
Are My Bees Bearding or About to Swarm?
Confusion between bearding and swarming is common, particularly among new or inexperienced beekeepers, but there are things that you can look out for that will help you to tell the difference.
If you have noticed that your bees are clustered at the entrance to the hive, look to see if they are facing the same direction. If they are bearding, they are likely to be fanning their wings to try to push cool air into the hive.
As mentioned, bees tend to beard when it is hot and humid; when the temperature and humidity levels drop again, they should head back into the hive.
Swarming tends to occur when a hive becomes overcrowded and conditions inside are unbearable for the bees. Look inside the hive to see if there is a lack of space for the bees. You should also look for queen cells inside the hive. If they are present, then there is a substantial risk that your bees are about to swarm.
Another thing to be aware of is that bearding bees tend to crawl out of the hive rather than fly out. If you notice a cluster outside the hive with a number of bees flying about, it may be that the bees are preparing to swarm. If they are going to swarm, they will not be fanning their wings; they will be waiting patiently for the signal that it is time to leave.
What to Do When Bees are Bearding?
Inexperienced beekeepers often panic when they see their bees bearding for the first time. Some will quickly try to collect the bees and place them back inside the hive while others use a smoker in an attempt to make them re-enter the hives themselves.
The thing to remember is that bearding is completely normal and, as already mentioned, a sign of a healthy colony. As long as you know the difference between bearding and swarming, it is best to leave bearding bees alone.
There are some things that can be done to help prevent bees from bearding, such as making sure the hive does not get too hot in the first place. Obviously, there is not a lot you can do about the external temperature, but you can place your hive in a shaded area and ensure it is never in direct sunlight during the summer months.
You can also try to ensure that the hive is well ventilated by using an open mesh floor and side vents. Ventilation is particularly important in the winter when condensation can build up inside the hive because of the cold weather outside and the warmth of the bees inside.
In conclusion, bearding is a natural behavior that bees exhibit when the hive’s internal temperature rises. It is their way of regulating the temperature within the hive to maintain a suitable environment for the colony. Bearding is not a cause for concern and it does not necessarily indicate that the hive is unhealthy or stressed. Nevertheless, it is important to monitor the hive’s conditions and take appropriate measures to prevent overheating or overcrowding. Providing adequate ventilation, adding more supers, or splitting the hive may help alleviate bearding. By understanding and responding to this behavior, you can ensure the health and well-being of your colonies and continue to enjoy the benefits of beekeeping.
Looking to up your beekeeping game? Check out my latest product reviews to take things to the next level!
The Top 11 Beekeeping Veils for 2023
The 14 Top Beekeeping Gloves for 2023
The 15 Best Beekeeping Suits for 2023
The 15 Top Beekeeping Books for 2023
The Top 11 Honey Extractors for 2023
The Top 12 Mason Bee Houses for 2023
Disclaimer: Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.
Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:
- Bee stings: Honeybees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
- Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
- Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
- Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
- Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.
While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.