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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.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Bearding bees are common in fall, especially in large colonies. © Debbie Fyda.
After a late start, this colony just kept growing and growing, producing honey like crazy. © Debbie Fyda.
Although you can't see them, even more bees are hanging on underneath the hive. © Debbie Fyda.
Although you can’t see them, even more bees are hanging on underneath the hive. © Debbie Fyda.

Comments

Dawn
Reply

Great information about bearding to assist with drying out the honey, thank you Rusty. However, I shuddered when my OCD brain read your reference to bearding being an “impressive site”! 🙂 I would say that honeybeesuite.com is an impressive site, but a large beard of bees on a hive is an impressive sight! Just teasing a bit. Thank you for the useful information and photos. I send a lot of people to your “site” to learn about they way bees behave.

Rusty
Reply

Dawn,

Thank you so much! I usually monitor my “site” for an hour or so after I publish, because sometimes corrections come in (like yours). Only this time I didn’t because I had to be somewhere. When I noticed your email it was 4:52 and my computer wasn’t even booted. I had exactly 8 minutes before 10,000 emails would go out with a misspelling in the first sentence. My OCD brain had a panic attack. I don’t know how I managed to fix it on time, but I did. So thanks 10,000 times over.

Peter Hodson
Reply

I love your site.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks!

Granny Roberta in nw CT
Reply

I don’t have such an impressive stack of supers, but two of my five hives have had MUCH more impressive bearding for the last two days, and a third one looked about like Debbie’s photos. I’m doing a Formic Pro treatment and the temperature has been hotter than I was promised (insert whiny-babying here).

Somewhat unrelated except, whoa!, I seem to have a LOT of bees in my hives: this is my sixth year of beekeeping and I have already gotten more honey than any previous year (and the yet-to-come fall honey has previously always exceeded the spring honey) and for the first time I have a glimmer of understanding of the quote about getting out of beekeeping because of the honey!

Rusty
Reply

Roberta,

I think about that saying sometimes, and I agree with it. Honey seems to be my biggest storage problem. A good problem to have, though.

Jenn
Reply

This short article is so informative! My 1st year hive has already doubled in size and I was able to harvest a gallon of honey with filled frames still left for the bees to utilize, The have been bearding for a week since it has been so hot and humid here in Central PA. Luckily between my mentor and your blog I see this is a normal thing, so I just enjoy watching them.

Mitchell campbell
Reply

Should I pull honey out of my top boots box right now.

Rusty
Reply

Mitchell,

It depends on where you live and what you mean by “boots” box.

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