Bearding bees are common in late summer
Huge colonies are an impressive sight! These photos were taken by Debbie Fyda in Ohio. She says she already removed three supers of honey, and those that remain are full of not-yet-capped nectar.
Debbie was surprised the colony took off, especially after bad weather in spring was followed by June rains. But once July heat arrived, the bees erupted into action.
In these photos the bees are bearding around the entrance. Debbie saw them beneath the hive as well, clinging to the screened bottom board.
Bearding in late summer
Once the bees begin to finish their work in late summer, you are more apt to see bearding, especially in large colonies. This occurs because the cells are already full of nectar, but summer dearth means flowers are scarce, so no new cells are needed. Simply put, the bees are left with nothing to do.
Too many bees in the hive block air flow, which slows down the drying of nectar, so the bees hang around outside. New beekeepers often misread this behavior as preparation for swarming, but it has nothing to do with swarming. In fact, many of these bees will die at the ends of their natural adult lives of four-to-six weeks, and most will not be replaced in order to bring the colony down to a manageable winter population.
Then too, bearding often increases after the beekeeper removes honey supers, thus forcing the bees into a smaller space. Since there isn’t enough room indoors, the bees stay outside, just doing their thing.
Honey Bee Suite