Have you ever seen or encountered bees bearding at night? If so, you may have been trepidatious about seeing bees hovering around in a cluster outside the hive- why is this? Do the bees belong here? There are some things that both new and seasoned beekeepers need to know about this behavior, which is actually called bee bearding.
What is bee bearding at night all about?
Bearding at night is a term to describe when bees cluster around the outside of their beehive at night. The shape of the bees forms a beard, of sorts, which is where the name comes from. Bearding is more common in hot, sticky weather or when there are too many bees in the hive.
Have you ever seen bees bearding at night? Keep reading to find out more!
Bee Bearding Behavior
Bearding is when bees hang out and cluster around the outside of their hives. The reason it is called ‘bearding’ is that the swarm of bees- not to be confused with swarming bees– resembles a beard in shape.
Bees are most likely to beard at night, as well as when the weather is humid and hot. While bees are inherently adept at fanning their wings to cool down the hive, if it is overcrowded or poorly ventilated, it may become too warm for bees and they will beard.
Bearding does achieve the purpose of cooling down the hive and keeping its young bee brood from becoming overheated. Bees like a warm hive, ideally around 90-degrees Fahrenheit, and it is necessary for raising the brood of bees.
Furthermore, the hive can’t be too humid, or it may impact the moisture content of the honey.
The bees know organically to form these beards and reduce the number of bees inside the hive, which helps with airflow. During bearding, they typically gather near the entrance of the hive, though some may congregate outside the brood box, too.
If you notice signs of bearding, don’t worry- it is perfectly normal bee behavior. In fact, bearding is a sure sign that you have a strong colony of bees. With a lot of bees all working to produce honey, temperatures and conditions inside the hive can lead to bearding, which is a good thing!
More About Bees Bearding at Night
Bearding bees is quite a sight- and it reminds you of how clever bees truly are. The bees usually hand outside the hive, bearding, until the conditions inside improve.
That is, the hive cools down or air is able to flow more freely. This could take a few hours, up to several days in some cases.
Bearding bees are most common during the warmest months of the year, or if your specific region is experiencing extremely hot weather. In this situation, you may notice bearding bees for days on end. Don’t be dismayed-when it cools down, they will go back in the hive.
Instead of worrying over bearding, try to consider the reason why your bees are doing this. Could the hive be too small for your colony? Does the hive need better ventilation and airflow?
Give the hive an inspection to evaluate if conditions are adequate for your colony or if you need to split the colony or add another honey super.
Make sure that your bees have room to get around and make their honey- as well as adequate space to store it after. Still worried about bearding bees? Talk with a local beekeeping group, forum, or resources to get more insights.
What You Can Do
So, while bearding is normal and fine, you may want to know why they are leaving their hive and determine if the conditions are optimal for your bees. Some things that you can do to help the bees include the following:
- Bearding could be a sign that your bees are hot- provide them with a water source, especially if it is hot outside. Also, take this as a prompt that it is time to check and inspect your hives.
- Try to initially position your hives so that they have ample shade in the afternoons. Bees that get a break from the hot sun are typically more productive. When there is shade, bees are able to cool down without fanning and can get back to the important job of producing honey!
- No natural shade sources near the hive? Consider installing an umbrella, tarp, or another source of shade. This will help to protect the bees from direct sunlight while providing them with a bit of restful and restorative shade.
- How is the hive’s ventilation? Signs of bearding could be an indication that you need to add some vents to promote better airflow through the hive. This can be done by adding very small- not too big- holes along the box handles. You could also add some screen mesh to the bottom board of your hive. Remember that bees don’t want too much airflow, however, so unless they are bearding, don’t add more holes to the hives.
Bearding vs. Swarming
When bees beard, they appear to be swarming but they are not. While there may be a swarm of bees present, this bearding behavior should not be confused with swarming.
An attentive beekeeper looks at the bees’ behaviors to try and assess their condition. When bees are bearding, they are quiet and quite still; when bees swarm, they are loud and active. Bearding should not raise concerns, though swarming might, as it could be a sign of an impending attack.
If you want to learn more about the differences between bearding and swarming, check out our article.
Beekeepers should never attempt to break up the cluster of bees that are bearding or try to make them go back inside the hive. Remember, this is an inherent behavior that benefits the hive by cooling it down. Leave them be and let them do their thing.
Bees are fascinating, aren’t they? If you notice your bees bearding at night, know that this is entirely normal bee behavior.
You should consider what you can do to make them more comfortable inside the hive, in the event that the hive is too crowded or too warm. Use these tips or talk with a professional beekeeper to address bearding issues, or to learn more!