Bearding is a term for bees that assemble on the outside of the hive during hot weather. They may cling to the outside of the brood boxes, hang from the alighting board, or gather near the entrance.
The conditions that lead to bearding are high temperatures, high humidity, overcrowding, lack of ventilation, or some combination of those factors. The bees form beards in an effort to keep the brood nest from becoming overheated. If too many bee bodies are covering the brood on a hot day, fanning may not be sufficient to keep the brood cool. By hanging on the outside instead of the inside, they lessen the heat load, decrease congestion, and increase the ventilation space.
Bearding is sometimes confused with swarming, but there are many differences.
- Swarming usually occurs in mid to late spring while bearding usually occurs in mid to late summer.
- Swarming usually occurs from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, while bearding may occur late in the afternoon into the evening. Generally, bearding bees don’t do back inside until the temperature drops—which may be quite late in the day.
- Swarming bees make a loud roar while bearding bees are relatively quiet.
- Swarming bees may cover the hive but they also form a cloud in the air around the hive. Bearding bees generally crawl out of the hive without becoming airborne.
If your bees are bearding, make sure the hive has good ventilation and a nearby source of water. If possible, hives should have some shade in the late afternoon. Bees do better and are more productive if they have some respite from the direct sun, especially in hot climates. Cooling a hot hive requires lots of time and energy—resources that could be put to better use.
After you’ve corrected any problems with ventilation, don’t worry about the bees. Just like humans, they like to spend a hot summer afternoon sitting on the front porch complaining about the heat.
I have a five-frame “swarm trap” which got occupied by a rather large band of feral bees (they predictibly swarmed from a bee tree). I chose to leave the box in place for 10-14 days so that they might build comb and have established brood before taking them home at dark thirty this morning. I’ve located them in what I believe is a decent place….left them in the 5-frame to settle for a day or so before planning to move them to a ten frame deep. I see what I think is bearding behavior in the (admittedly) poorly ventilated box; I just went out and cracked the top open for more air. They seem awfully loud and there are some flying around in the air, but I’m not sure if I’m seeing bearding (assumed) or pre-swarm behavior (as in we are outta here!). It is 74 degrees F and the box is in the sun, sitting on top of their new 10-frame digs. Any thoughts on what I’m really seeing? Ideas? Suggestions? Thanks!
Whatever I say here will turn out to be wrong and then you’ll be sorry you asked. If they built comb in the past two weeks, I doubt they will swarm right away. For one thing, they would need time to build queen cells and build up their populations a bit. But they could be thinking of absconding, in which case they don’t need queen cells or more bees. On the other hand, I don’t think they would abscond if there is brood to care for.
You may be seeing just orientation flight, since they are in a new area, they need to do that. But the loudness is problematic.
So, I guess I would go ahead and transfer them to their new digs, and while I was doing that I would check for brood, swarm cells, or any other odd things. I think it would be good to get them in cooler surroundings as soon as possible.
My guess is they will settle in, but I’ve been wrong before.
Let me know how it turns out.
I’m a new beekeeper from Victoria, Australia and just found this wonderful source of information. (I was trying to find out why my bees were fighting around the hive).
Thanks to those who have posted on various issues as there is just sooo much to learn!
Hi, thanks for your info. I am a new beekeeper. I introduced my bees to my topbar hive last week and verified comb building and the queen free from her cage midweek. I have been giving them sugar water every day and noticed bearding behavior yesterday in the afternoon. I had limited the entrance to 2 inch width by taping for defensibility and since the bearding have reversed this to the orginal design width for the opening. I am going to setup a shade trellis and thought about adding venting in the gables of the detachable roof. Any other things I should watch for while they settle in?
It sounds like you have a good handle on it. I do like the vents, though. They will serve your colony well.
I live in North Idaho. This is my first year as a beekeeper. I have one hive. This spring and summer have been much hotter than usual (mid to high 90’s every day) and I noticed that my bees have been bearding in the evening the last few days. My hive consists of a solid bottom board, two deeps and one super. It is in partial shade a good portion of the day. I am concerned that I should have a screen bottom board to assist with ventilation. Would you advise me to replace the solid bottom board with a screen board at this point?
We still have a long summer to go. I would put in both a screened bottom board and a screened inner cover. I use both from about April through October.
Thank you for the great advice. I saw your instructions for making a screened inner cover and I’m going to get the materials right now.
Hi I am a new beekeeper and just harvested my honey. So I only have 3 brood boxes left and have taken the honey supers off and have noticed the bees are bearding more than before. Should I have another medium in place or will they be okay. Thanks Elaine
Three brood boxes should give them enough space, especially now that the colony size will be shrinking for winter. You can put another box on if you are worried, but I think they should be fine as they are. Bearding doesn’t necessarily mean they are out of room; it usually just means the brood nest is very warm.
Great site, been keeping bees since 1974. Pity that I can’t leave comments, I have a wealth of smarts to share.
Looks like a comment to me.
I was doing an inspection today and a small swarm came up. I’m a new beekeeper so I didn’t realize what was going on. The inspection went well; the bees were calm until that swarm came. I closed the box, went back out and bees were everywhere. They started bearding on my roof of the hive and had a small war going on for a while. I brought out the smoke after failing to get them in a new box and by accident, I smoked the new hive into my box. They were a little tense for a while, now they’re getting along fine. They look different from each other. I’m sure they came with the virgin queen. Hope the two queens make it together.
We are new bee keepers. We’ve had our two hives for only a week.
They seem to be doing fine until this morning they are clustering outside
the hives. I am not sure if they are swarming or bearding. We checked the
hives 2 days ago. They seem to have enough sugar water and water
outside. What do we do next?? Thank you!!
Was it warm or humid? That is the most common reason for clustering outside.
It’s 6 am and still dark out. 72 degrees and very muggy. My bees are congregating on the outside of the hive and buzzing around some. This is my first hive and was started with 5 frames and they are in a ten frame langstroth hive. What is happening? I’m not sure how to attach a picture.
The answer is in your question: 72 degrees and muggy is making the interior of the hive uncomfortable. They are staying outside the hive to help keep the nest area from getting too hot. It is hard to keep the hive cool in muggy conditions because water does not evaporate easily or quickly.
I just installed two packages 5 days ago. This morning I verified the queen had been released in my TBH. This afternoon I walked outside and noticed so many bees on the outside of the hive and in the air all around it. It is currently 82 degrees, so I know they could just be trying to keep cool. After about thirty minutes of this buzzing/flying activity they all have settled on the bottom of the hive. There are no bees at all inside. They had started to build comb, but no eggs have been laid yet. So, should I just observe them to see if they will go back in once the temps cool? Should I try to dump them in a box and put them back in the hive? Is it possible the queen just took off and now they don’t know what to do? They had plenty of sugar syrup inside and water just outside the hive. First timer and really don’t want to lose this bunch!
Sounds to me like they are going to leave the tbh. I would catch them and put them back in. Put a queen excluder or a piece of hardware cloth, five squares to the inch, over the entrance until the queen starts laying.
Thank you. I have been observing them for a couple hours and they seem happily settled on the bottom of the hive. I think they were hot. I did not have the screen open on their side, and did have the observation window open, which I’m sure didn’t help. This is the first hot day we’ve had. They just came through a snow storm on Saturday to get here, so it is quite an extreme change for them. I can try catching them and putting them back in. Any tips for how to go about that? Scoop them into a box then dump them back in? Should I wait till evening when it’s cooler? I’ve really enjoyed your blog and have learned so much from it. Thank you for responding so quickly!
A cardboard box should work at any time of day.
Why are my bees building comb on the underside of the hive box? Are they preparing to swarm? just got them 2 weeks ago.
Bees preparing to swarm don’t build comb. Maybe they just like the outside better than the inside. Are they also building comb on the inside?
Hello, I am also new to beekeeping and have enjoyed reading your comments and post. My bees are housed in a Top Bar hive with a screen bottom, a hinged top that is vented and lower entrance that is 1/2″ x 8″ long. The bees are still quietly bearding. Should there also be an upper entrance to allow some of the heat to escape? Weather 81 degrees and 80% humidity.
You say the hinged top is vented. That should be enough, I think.
After inspecting our hive yesterday, we noticed later that same evening the bees are were on the outside and underneath the hive. After checking them again the first thing this morning, they are still outside and underneath the hive. There are also several dead bees under the hive. Not sure if this is considered bearding or not. It is not hot so I don’t think that is the issue. Any idea on what could be happening?
It’s hard to say. The dead bees are certainly not an issue, so ignore them. Do you know where the queen is? If she is in the hive, the bees outside the hive can probably be moved inside, unless they are with a separate queen. You might look through the outside cluster to see if there is a second queen, although I doubt it. (Sometimes queens get accidentally shaken into packages, but I don’t know if you bought packages or not, or how long ago.)
I guess I would just move them inside and see what happens.
We assumed a swarm about 4 hours ago on our roof. They swarmed to a smaller starter box. The majority of the bees went inside the box. However, there are now more bees bearding outside of the box on front and back. It is 77 degrees and 84% humidity at 8:00 p.m. The box does have a screen bottom but is now on a solid surface. Do you think they are bearding because of the weather or because they are too crowded. I will be leaving for the month of June tomorrow and must decide whether or not to move them to a bigger box before early morning as my spouse cannot do that alone. Thank you
They may be trying to keep the interior of the hive cooler. However, they also my move on if they think conditions at this home are not ideal. I would move them to a larger box.
This is the first year my hive has made it through the winter after 3 tries so I am very happy.
I noticed this week there has been a large concentration of bees on the outside of the hive. There are still bees coming and going for regular flights and the bees on the outside are very docile allowing them to be moved in late clumps. It has rained a couple days and most go inside like last night but as of this morning they are back outside. I have 2 brood chambers and 2 honey supers with the one next to the brood having the most room. Just hot or ready to swarm?
It sounds like bearding, but it wouldn’t hurt to go into the hive and look for signs of swarming such as backfilling and swarm cells.
I have 2 hives in my backyard. The bees in only one are bearding, but it is the hive that we planned to move to a different, cooler location before we add another deep box. We are hoping to move them this weekend, so I’ve been watching the last two days to see if they go back inside in the evening so we can do the transport. Unfortunately it’s been unseasonably hot the last couple of days, and they are staying outside the hive very late — beyond when we hope to get on the road. Any suggestions?
You can take your bee brush and brush them into a cardboard box. Move the hive (and the box) and dump them into the hive once you arrive at your new location.
Thank you so much! It’s almost 10:30 here, 81 degrees, and we’re fretting about how to get them out of here. New plan is to leave at 4 am, get them to their cooler spot by 5:30, and I will brush any stragglers into a box to reunite them when we get there. Love that I found your site, and plan to be a regular!
I had an old bbq that I moved under a branch on my nectarine tree to support it. Not long after I noticed some bees decided it was a great place to set up shop. I don’t mind and will have them relocated at some point by a professional. However, this morning I noticed all the bees out and flying around the tree and the bbq but they would not go inside of it. They didn’t seem to be going anyplace just buzzing about the tree pretty loudly. I thought it might be the heat the past 2 days have been around 113* and today it’s supposed to be 100*. However, this was early morning (6:30) and significantly cooler than late afternoon. I don’t think they were bearding. Any thoughts on what they were doing? Should I do anything to make them comfy? Thanks for the help.
I don’t know what they are doing, but I doubt there is much you can do to help. Just let them be bees. I’m sure they will figure out what they need to do next.
Thought I had found a swarm of bees on the side of a house but after reading this it looks like a bearding hive. Upon closer examination there is a crack under a window where they are living.
Good site! Very informative. ?
I love your site! Bearding or swarming, that is the question. Biggest topic right now and mine is the same. Does it help to add another box to give them more room and more ventilation?
I don’t know where you are, but in most areas in North America, swarm season is over. Although swarms can happen at other times, the vast majority occur in a six-to-eight week period in spring. Where I live the drones are already being evicted, and without drones, mating of new queens cannot occur and swarming is unlikely.
Another box will not aid ventilation as much as good air flow through the hive. I find a screened bottom in conjunction with a screened inner cover to be the best.
Will another box help or not?
See answer in your previous question.
I recently came home to find a small portion of bees hanging from a tree limb maybe 3 feet from the hive. I didn’t find a queen in this group but did find her in the original hive. I cut the limb and put a portion back in the hive. Some were just obsessed with this branch so I took the branch and a empty frame and placed in a swarm box. I was wondering if they could’ve been bearding to cool off or did they actually swarm.
I am in Hampton Roads, VA and for the past couple of weeks the weather has been extremely hot. The real feel has been over 100-degrees.
I just did a,hive inspection on Sat and tried to condense the size of the hive thinking they had to much room.
Boy, was that the wrong move.
If the group was small and didn’t have a queen or virgin, I doubt it was a reproductive swarm because it wouldn’t be able to establish a new colony. My guess it was bearding related to the high humidity. I would try to give the hive maximum air flow, including a screened bottom board, a screened inner cover, and perhaps an upper entrance. Anything to keep the air moving through. Yes, perhaps removing the upper box was a bad idea. The higher the hive is stacked, the more of a “chimney effect” you get, which aids in pulling the air through the hive and out the top. Don’t worry too much; they will probably be fine.
Thank you for the information!
We moved to a house that already has a hive so we are trying to learn as much as we can. We have been here a month and have been watching from the outside until we got some gear. Today we opened the boxes to do an inspection.
This evening we noticed this bearding. I’m worried that we may have over smoked them. We live in Southern California and it is super hot, over 100 degrees. It was a little more humid today and there was some dust warnings, so the air was not good. Not sure if it was all of that or we just need to try using much less smoke next time. I’m hoping they will be okay and we didn’t do any damage.
Any suggestions would be great.
Bees beard in hot and humid weather. The bees do not want to overheat the brood nest, so some go outside so their body heat is dissipated outside the hive. I suspect the bearding is a result of the humidity more than the smoke. Although over-smoking should be avoided, I’m sure you did no permanent damage and the behavior you are seeing is totally normal.
I am interested in booking and starting my first hive. Crazy question but I need to learn first, but do you let your bees out do they go out on their own. Thanks in advance.
Not sure if I understand the question, but the bees have an opening in their hive and they come and go when they want to. You don’t need to supervise.
The bees have been bearding for a week now and ended up building combs underneath the hive, near the entrance. Should I remove the combs or leave them?
I’m from Australia and it has been really hot all of last week.
The first thing I would do is see if you can make the hive cooler. If you don’t already have them, I would add a screened bottom board and a screened inner cover. You can also drill some vent holes in the upper boxes and cover them with screen from the inside. Also, if they’re in bright sun, consider moving them into the shade. Also, you might consider an extra brood box, just so they can spread out a bit.
Once you have done some of those things, I would carefully cut off the combs and tie them onto frames and put then in the hive. If you leave them outside of the hive, they may attract predators that could be damaging to the entire set-up.
Thanks Rusty. I’ll do that.
We are from Victoria Australia as well. I am finding your information very useful as we are new beekeepers and everything that occurs we need to understand why! It’s autumn here (just) and they are bearding, we thought they were swarming, we are keen to have honey but the best thing is to assist the bees.
We have 3 of 4 healthy hives. Today the bees were all out covering the hives. They were even covering a “dead hive.” It is late going into the evening and there are a ton of bees covering just one of the hives. There are a lot of bees in the same hive that seem to be doing their normal thing. I’ve had 4 swarms already and think this may be another swarm in the making. Have not experienced this method of their madness?? Thoughts?
Is it hot where you are? If so, the bees may be outside to lower congestion and keep the brood nest cooler. You could have another swarm, but that doesn’t sound like one. Swarms usually leave closer to midday or early afternoon.
Rusty – thanks for the feedback and sorry for the late response. The bees were shaded but it was a warmer spring at the time. I agree that I think they were just out in mass doing their thing and we panicked and grabbed them up as a queenless swarm. In the end, we ended up with 3 queenless hives. They are still in the hives but did not collect or produce honey all year. Guess we have some laying workers? Getting cooler evenings and when I check early am they are not together as they would be typically. We have been unable to attend to them as I would have liked to this summer. Thinking it’s to late to introduce a queen?
It’s not too late to introduce a queen, but that is very difficult if you have laying workers.
Hi, great info here.
I just tried to re-home a swarm. But I don’t know if it is right. We did not have a hive ready and to be in time we had to bid on e-bay and got 3 national hives. Obviously second hand, but I had not thought it through. I cleaned just the bottom box and one box with new wax frames in it and the top, with boiling water and brush and a metal thing you use to get paint off. I poured extra boiling water to flush all away and dry them in the sun. Now I shook most bees in the bottom bit and some that where left on a white sheet I had payed outside in front of entrance. Now they are all (or maybe most) bearding on the outside of the hive. It was a much hotter day today, but not that hot (about 20 degrees Celsius). Any advise very welcome. Also about cleaning, as I could do this better I am sure, but had time limit. I want to do it without chemicals thanks Sophia
I think you cleaned as well as can be expected. Not knowing the history of the boxes, you can always take a propane torch and singe the insides, which will kill spores of Nosema and foulbrood. Other than that you don’t want use chemicals or anything that repels the bees.
It’s sometimes hard to get a swarm to settle. Are the frames new or are they used as well? Sometimes they don’t like the smell of new wood. You may just have to be patient. It often helps to keep the queen in a cage until the workers start to build comb, just to keep them from absconding.
I am new to bee hiving. I have five frames in different stages. I added a second box for food. The bees created a rather large hive on top of the frames. I removed this and left it out for the bees to clean up. Sadly and in ignorance there were bee larvae in the bottom four inches of the 8 inch hive. The bees returned to the hive or were brushed in after this. Today 3 days later they are many more bees flying around the entrance. I have a screen in the bottom and a space in the top. I put a second box on top with empty frames. Looking for encouragement or assurance all is ok. It is a cool day 70 and the are in the sun at this time. Maybe 50-75 bees flying around.
I sometimes can’t answer questions because I don’t understand them. You say, “the bees created a rather large hive on top of the frames.” Strictly speaking, a hive is a man-made structure meant for housing a colony of bees.” However people use the word “hive” to mean colony, which is technically wrong but I get it. However, I don’t think you mean either one. Are you saying the bees built a comb? Assuming so, you cut off the comb and found larvae? And what bees returned to the hive? The ones you brushed off? And what is the problem? Sorry, I still don’t understand the question.
1st yr newbee, my one hive is bearding after a week long spell of 90 weather. It ws a new package 2 months ago, doing well with 2 8-frame mediums, 2nd box filling up nicely with comb, brood and honey.
I have a screened bottom board with another very light weight white board under it……as in corrugated white plastic I think? Should I remove that plastic board? I was told to leave it because they like it dark.
The things people come up with amazes me. Take the board out so they get more fresh air. I put mine in when I’m doing mite counts, otherwise I leave it out all year, even in winter.
Thank you for answering my question about the bees on the bottom board. I will be working on improving ventilation and shading the hive in the afternoon. Started off with one nuc this spring, and now have two hives because it swarmed in May. Not a bad problem, just glad we had the hive to house them in it ready to go when we first saw an elevated number of drones. That said, we are still new to beekeeping. How often should I go in and pull out frames to check the hives? What do you do if the bees have built odd shaped comb? When should I add another super on top of the existing brood box and super (didn’t have a medium box). I have my dad’s old plastic hives and frames. Can I combine the wood and plastic boxes? Sorry for so many questions.
1. How often should I go in and pull out frames to check the hives?
The longer I keep bees, the fewer inspections I do. That said, more frequent inspections help new beekeepers to learn. But my bottom line is simple: If you need to know something, you should look. If you don’t need to know anything, you shouldn’t open the hive for no reason. Always have a plan that starts out like this: “I am opening my hive because …” You need a reason and should clarify that first.
2. What do you do if the bees have built odd shaped comb?
It depends. If it isn’t impeding inspection, I may leave it. It it’s inhibiting easy frame manipulation, it’s got to go.
3. When should I add another super on top of the existing brood box and super (didn’t have a medium box).
Add another super when the one below it is about 80% full of some combination of brood, pollen, and/or honey.
4. I have my dad’s old plastic hives and frames. Can I combine the wood and plastic boxes?
I am fortunate to have bees living in an old squirrel hole (tree) about 10 yards from my back porch. I like watching them. Right now it’s 80 degrees and humid. The bees appear to be closing their hole with what looks like saw dust. I leave the bees alone as they do me but I am curious to what they are doing.
Are you sure they are bees and not wasps? Sawdust sounds more like a wasp thing.
Good afternoon Rusty, I’m from Michigan, today it was 85 and humid, real feel was 93. I noticed a bunch of bees bearding in the tree about 20 feet from my hives, I also checked the hives and they are full of bees, could this cluster be extra bees from one of the hives or did they swarm from somewhere else? I have never seen them beard anywhere else to stay cool but outside the hive????
It could be just a bunch of hot bees from your hive. I’ve seen them do this, although not frequently. If it’s not very big, and if the bees are just hanging out, they may move back in later.
Went to a lot of classes last two year
Just love it
Love your site
Thank you for your work
So I had some bees move into an open vent on the side of my house. I didn’t want the bees killed so I bought a new fully set up 10-frame hive, the frames already had the pre-made wax meaning the frames weren’t empty. I created a trap out with the cone and sure enough a lot of bees are coming out. I placed the hive very close the the trap and added some lemongrass in it, in the morning I saw a lot of bees going in and out of the hive, tonight being the first night I checked and there is a ball of bees under the hive sleeping, my question is do I just let the bees do their thing? When do I check the hive to see if there are bees in there? If they keep “hanging” under the hive do I just move them into the hive? When is the best time to do this? At night? I’m still a little bit apprehensive about working with bees as I have no prior experience. I’ve been reading a lot and watching you tube videos. My hope at best is they all move in the hive and I can call a professional beekeeper and they take the hive, or they fly away. I’m afraid if I keep the bees I might kill them. Any suggestions? Txs
The real trick to doing a trap out is getting the queen. She won’t come out without a reason, and without a queen or eggs to make a queen, a colony cannot survive. So, if you can’t get the queen, you will have to buy one or find one and add it to the colony in the hive.
Hello – It’s been stinkin’ hot here in northern Virginia lately, so in the morning I’ve been popping the top and inner cover and propping it up about an inch for airflow. The bees seems to appreciate it; instead of just bearding around the front opening, they’re covering both now. I’ve also put up a light sheet overhead to act as a sunshade in the hottest part of the day and ensured they have water nearby. My question is, it’s also been really warm at night and I don’t think the hive gets to totally cool off. I’ve usually been going out in the evening and closing the top vent, but is there any issue with me actually just leaving it open and the top brood frames exposed (about a 1″ opening) overnight and for days at a time? Thanks for your time and help.
Why not use a screened inner cover? The screen goes over the brood box and the 1-inch shims at the ends (or sides) hold the lid up so air freely moves out of the hive. The bees stay much cooler, honey dries faster, and the bees are protected from predators. I use them on all hives during spring and summer. How to make a screened inner cover.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before, and since I haven’t I’d assumed there was a reason for that (I’m a beekeeping newbie). Wouldn’t I still need to open the outer cover though, otherwise all the heat would just pool up in the “attic”? Overall I think it’s a great idea and am going to get to work on one… being a woodworker with a full ‘shop has its perks :-). However, I think I’m going to build what might be described as a half-screen inner cover, since I like to feed my bees through an upended mason jar sitting over a hole on the inner cover. And I’ll need to think about some sort of vented shim I could put between the screened inner cover and the roof to let heat out without letting weather in…. New project in work – I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks! Oh, and since it may take me a day or two to build, there any reason I still couldn’t leave the top popped slightly open overnight? No susceptibility to rain or anything like that with the configuration I have. I was more worried about other insects getting in.
With an screened inner cover, you do not prop open the lid. The reason is that the telescoping lids have space around them for the air to get out. They do not fit tight, there’s usually about 3/8-inch of play all around between the hive and the inside of the cover. This is plenty of room for air to move out. I center the telescoping cover over the screened inner cover to enhance the effect. However, you could easily increase the height of the shim and hold the lid higher off the screen. There is nothing magic about the height. I like it lower to keep out rain, but you might like yours higher.
You can probably leave your lid open at night for a couple days, but eventually predators will discover the entrance, so don’t do it for long periods.
Oops, think I posted to the main page instead of replying, so you can delete the other (if you notice it). Yesterday I built what I think is a great screened inner cover with a platform for the feeder; is there a way I can post or send you a pic? The bees seem rather happy with it, as they’re not bearding outside in numbers anywhere near what they were previously. Also, was reading your “About Me” and saw you’re from Columbia County PA. I’m originally from Williamsport, next county over. Small world. 🙂
Yes, small world. I would love to see your photos. You can attach them to an email and send them: email@example.com.
Well that was easy! How do I attach a pic here for you, or send to you? 🙂
I am a new keeper w 2 hives in Pemberton BC (hot summer!). My “slow producing” hive seems to be bearding the last week or so. They have filled 7/9 frames on the lower super (yes, I have 9 to add ventilation). I added another super 3 days ago and there is no change in the bearding, maybe even more bees on the outside. It is evening only and they check all the bearding boxes vs swarm. My question is… can I shift the full frames (brood/honey etc) and add empty frames to help cooling and ventilation in the lower super?? Or just, as I usually do, let em Beeee (and hope they spread out). 🙂 Thanks!
I do not believe in disturbing the nest structure if you don’t have to. And truthfully, I don’t understand why there is so much angst over bearding. I’m not picking on you personally; I hear concerns about it all the time. To me, if my bees want to beard, I let them beard. It’s no different than humans and dogs longing on a porch on a summer evening—it makes them comfortable. We’re past swarm season and you’re probably in a dearth, so I can’t imagine the bees would have any interest in another super. If it were me, I would give them a screened inner cover and call it good.
Thanks Rusty! I’ll take a chill pill and let em bee. 😉
I like your site I have been a beekeeper for 2 years now and I am taking the master beekeeper program thru the Oregon State University. I live on the border of Oregon and Washington
I had only 3 hives last year. This year I have caught 6 swarms, I also was able to get 16 hives from a friend who was a commercial beekeeper.
My issue is Saturday morning about 6 am I checked the honey supers to see how the hives were doing. To my surprise there was no honey in the supers. The brood chambers all had full frames of brood and honey . a few of the hives the comb was built onto the bottom of the second deep box. These are established hives located in a locust tree grove with a pond.
The 4 hives I have in my small orchard at home are the same, these nucs I bought in May. I did not get the above 16 hives till first part of June . I am only a Apprentice Beekeeper.
Some years we don’t get much surplus honey. The bees are going to fill the brood chambers before they go into the supers. In years when there isn’t a good honey flow, they never put anything in the supers. Because both your locations are behaving the same way, and the problem is consistent in all your hives, I would say you just have to chalk it up to a bad season. Farming is like that.
That is what I was thinking also. Just like any other crop. Sometimes we don’ have a good soft fruit crop or a good apple crop.
My main thinking was I didn’t want to be doing something wrong.
I wouldn’t worry. It sounds normal to me.
I live in Northwest Ohio. I’ve got a hive that has been very strong all season long. So far, I’ve been able to collect about 40 – 16 oz jars of honey and I’m expecting to get more soon. Most of the season, this hive has been bearding…not excessively, but at least enough to tell me that the hive is flourishing. In the past week, the bee gathering on the front of the hive has been much more sparse. I would like to say it’s because the honey flow has stopped…but the city has also been spraying for mosquitos the past couple weeks. What do you think…is this tied to the honey flow or pesticide use a few blocks from my hive? Is there any way this could be tested?
My guess is it’s neither. Your colony population starts falling after the summer solstice (June 21) and continues to drop until the winter solstice (December 21). For more on this, see “Your beekeeping year is about to change.”
I live in Vermont, and I am a new beekeeper. This afternoon I noticed a large bunch of bees clustered at the entrance to one of my two hives. I thought that maybe it was crowded inside, so I checked the honey super that I had added over a month ago. There were very few bees inside, and they hadn’t built any comb in it. It’s been rainy and cool (60 – 65 degrees F) during the day for almost a week. If they’re not going outside to cool off or because it’s too crowded, why would they be doing this?
The brood nest could be crowded and warm even if the honey super isn’t. And if a nectar dearth is in effect, they don’t have much else to do.
I am wondering if you could give me some info on beekeeping? We have brand new neighbors who have started keeping bees. We only figured it out when we saw a huge swarm of them in their backyard. Two days ago these swarms were in our backyard. There were bees everywhere. I don’t want to complain since they are new to the neighborhood. We just don’t know what they were doing? It was a cooler day. Around 67 degrees. There were so many bees, and then all of a sudden they were gone. What were they doing? Bearding even though it was not hot out, or swarming? We didn’t know what to think…but we didn’t want to go outside with so many of them flying all around. I worry about when my granddaughters are around. They are scared of bugs and I am sure if they had been out there would have swung at them. I just want to understand what they were doing, and if they would have been a danger to my granddaughters had they been outside when this happened. Thank you for any help you can give me. Laurie
Since you don’t say where you are, it’s hard to tell what the bees were doing since their behavior is seasonal. However, bees in a true swarm are at their most docile stage. Swarms are bees in the process of changing the location of their nest. In general honey bees, like all animals, protect their nest and their young. Bees changing locations have no nest or no young, hence they have nothing to defend. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, it was likely a swarm. In the northern hemisphere, that would be less likely. If by swarm, you mean orientation flights, then they last maybe 45 minutes and then go back inside. Perhaps you should ask your neighbor what they are doing, since you all live in the same place.
Sorry, I didn’t think to state where I lived. We are located in Mn.
The day after I wrote this my granddaughters were over. Of course the bees were once again in our yard. They are little girls, 4 and 18 months. They freaked out as the bees were landing on us. We immediately went inside. I understand that there is a big importance in our dwindling bee population. Just concerned as to why they seem to be populating our yard so much? I’m just a grandma trying to keep her Grandchildren safe.
I have a really high privacy fence, but I suppose I could holler over. I know that there is a gentleman who lives 2 doors down from this neighbor who is highly allergic to bee stings. I know that his wife has made it known that they aren’t thrilled about this new addition to the neighborhood. She stated that they should have asked their new neighbors if it would be acceptable for them to have these hives. I have no idea whether that is something they needed to do, or not? I’m just more concerned when I see massive bee movement in my yard. I don’t want to be a “bad neighbor”, I just want to understand what we are now dealing with. Thank you for all and any help.
Knowing where you are tells me a lot more. At this time of year in most northern areas, including MN, you are probably in a nectar dearth. That simply means there is a shortage of nectar-producing flowers blooming. So a large colony of bees becomes more or less “at loose ends,” not knowing what to do with themselves. You can compare them to a bunch of teenagers loitering around on a hot summer day with nothing to do: they are bound to get in trouble.
They are looking for anything to collect and bring back to the hive. Honey bees don’t eat meat, of course, but they are looking for nectar, pollen, or sweets of any type. They may also be looking for water. Something is probably attracting them to your backyard, a scent, a bush, or a water source are all possibilities.
This condition will stop when the weather gets colder, or if rain brings fall flowers into bloom, or if the bees find something else to amuse themselves. I know that from your point of view it probably seems endless, and I understand that. But trust that it will stop.
As for the legality, most jurisdictions now allow beekeeping because bees are important for a healthy and vigorous environment. However, most homeowner’s associations do not allow them. It’s something you may want to check into if you are bound by such an agreement.
Otherwise, there isn’t much you can do. Much like cats, bees roam. Normally, they just go up and out, sometimes traveling miles from their hive to harvest nectar. They are busy all day and rarely bother anyone. Although I have many hives on my property, I rarely see the bees except at this time of year when they seem to be looking for trouble. I don’t know what else to tell you at this point, but if you have more questions, I will try to answer.
Thank you so much for the info. It really does help. Maybe it would be a positive thing to put our flowers closer to our fence? We do have flowers on our deck and that is where they were that day. Like I said….I understand that we need the bees. So I figured if I could learn more about this I could figure out the best way to deal with our new bee neighbors.
Moving the flowers would probably help. Just out of curiosity, what kind of flowers are they?
This is my first year beekeeping. I have two hives. The summer has been cool, but the last few days have been hot. I found one of my two hives bearding this evening. I have a screened bottom but not a screened top. I thought at first they were swarming–fortunately, my eleven year old did some research. I set a spare brood box out there when I thought they were swarming as well as some sugar water with “honey b healthy” in it. When my son told me they were bearding, we added a dish of water. We have a pond, but they stopped using it early summer and started using the birdbath. As of last week, they have stopped using the birdbath. I put a dish of water with rocks in it near the hive.
What am i doing right–what am I doing wrong? Any ideas/suggestions are welcome!
I was thinking of adding the extra brood box (the hives are both two large brood boxes so far–but the boxes were not close to being filled as of last check) to the bearding hive, making it three high.
Can I use a queen excluder as a screen top?
Also, is it okay to go into the hive while it is bearding to check the conditions?
In my opinion, the only thing you are doing wrong is worrying about bearding. If that’s what the bees want to do, let them. It’s perfectly normal and natural and not something you have to fix. Eventually, they will stop doing it.
Do not add an extra box that’s not needed. It’s harder for your bees to police a large area, and it can be a welcome place for things like wax moths and small hive beetles to live.
A queen excluder cannot replace a screened top because robbing bees, wasps, moths, and other unwanted created can easily get into the hive.
Yes, you can go into the hive while the colony is bearding. No problem.
oh! i almost forgot. there is a strong smell of honey by the hives. my boys said it smelled more like apple cider vinegar, but i thought it just smelled of honey.
does this mean something?
A cidery smell could indicate some fermenting cells, but I wouldn’t worry unless fermentation is out of hand. You can look at the honey next time you inspect.
I’m in LA, right next to BH and WEHO. There’s what I think bearding activity happening at the base of a light pole… on my block. However it’s hard to tell because what’s very peculiar is that while they were there in the heat of the day –they’re STILL there now at 11pm and its 68 degrees. Plus it’s no where’s near anything like a hive, that I can see. I pushed veeeerry gently against the mound of them with the edge of my phone and they didn’t get pissed or anything… none really even tried to fly away.. but they’re all somewhat active in that there’s a little movement. And yet they seem pretty lethargic. Who can I call? hmu at marc @ aworkofmarc . com
Sounds like a swarm. Bees beard on or close to their hive, but this sounds like a swarm looking for a home. They will leave within a day or two.
Sounds like a swarm. Bees beard on or close to their hive, but this sounds like a swarm looking for a home. They will leave within a day or two.
We closed boxes and covered hives for 5 hours today to prevent overspray of Round up from nearby pastures. The ambient temp was 90 F today. At time of uncovering there were massive amounts of dead bees. We are distraught and could use any advise on what to do today and tomorrow to salvage this sad disaster.
For future reference, if you need to keep your bees from flying out of the hive, you can lock them inside the night before but give them screened bottoms and screened inner covers. In that kind of temperature, they need the air to flow through the hive to get evaporative cooling. I don’t know what you should do now. It depends on whether the queens are still alive. If the queens are still healthy and there are enough bees left, they may be able to recover. If not, you may have to combine what’s left. Overspray of RoundUp probably would have done no damage.
At one particular location I have two hives and one of them confuses me. Hive one flies in water all day and never beards. Hive two seems to never collect any water and they beard heavily all of every night from the landing board down. I’ve provided them a huge drown-free water source next to the hives, shade in the afternoon, plenty of room and each Hive has a ventilated spacer at the top.
I’m quite new to beekeeping with a new colony – I live in the south of the UK. Thanks for a very helpful site from which I’ve learnt that my bees are almost certainly bearding. We have had a period of hot (for the UK) weather, today hitting over 90deg. My hive is a WBC. I’ve rigged a water feeder at the entrance. Is it ok to crack open the roof to let out some heat?
I am in NorCal and I built a top bar hive over winter and installed a package in the spring. It has been booming though I have had to adjust to the comb management.
In the afternoon, 4-5PM when it’s hot, I am seeing a lot of bearding. At this point I have opened up the entire hive with bars so there is plenty of room and there are also a few small ventilation holes on the solid bottom (no screened bb) which have been handy for drainage. There are six of wine cork sized holes, all open across the hive front now.
Is there cause for alarm? Should I add more entrance holes or maybe some holes in the bottom board? (There is now way to retrofit a screened BB and the plans didn’t mention it.)
If your bees want to beard, let them.
I am so glad I found your website it is more helpful and insightful than anything else.
Unfortunately I do not know what to do. Three days in a row my bees have swarmed and I have scooped them up and respirated them into a larger hive, well ventilated and with plenty of food and water.
They did it again today and I am worried. Can you give me a suggestion?
I just installed a swarm of bees. They are clumping at the bottom inside the hive. what doe that mean?
It probably means they found a point of attachment they like better than the frames you gave them. They will most likely move when they are ready.
This is my first year getting my colonies to survive the winter (South Central PA). Today the hive with the weaker colony was covered with bees – not in a ball, but more like bearding with about 1/2 the hive (2 deeps and a super and a Vivaldi board) covered in bees. I thought perhaps they were hot (but only 60+ today) so I brushed them from the sides a bit so I could cut off the remaining foam board. When I came back an hour later they were no longer on the hive in large numbers. However, on the ground was a small queen, not walking well, with 4 attendants only. She was alive but kept falling over. Her attendants started to leave. I opened the hive and tipped back the super and there were 3-4 queen cells hanging from the bottoms of frames. The hive was full of bees. We have had a cold spring with today the first day above 60 so I was waiting for a warmer day for a hive inspection. Tomorrow I’m going to rush out and make a split if I can find a queen. Any guesses as to what happened? Any advice? Thanks so much for any help.
The other day (60+ and sunny), one of my hives (2 deeps and a super) was 1/2 covered with bees. I removed 2 remaining pieces of foam board and came back after an hour to discover (a) the bees were back inside (at least there were many bees inside the hive) and (b) a young-looking but moribund queen on the ground, struggling to walk, with 4-5 attendants. Inspecting the hive (first inspection of the season due to cold weather) revealed many queen cells but only mature brood and no young larvae. The next morning I discovered another young queen on my bee wagon but this one was surrounded by about 50 bees. I decided to do a split. We found the old queen in the bottom and moved her to a nuc with brood, nectar, pollen. The next morning the old queen had been ejected, dead. I got a queen cell from the mother hive and put that in the nuc. What do you think happened? Were the bees raising queens in the main hive because the old queen was failing? I’m not sure what happened to the swarm as the old queen was still in the hive. Obviously, a few of the new queens went off with a small swarm but they were probably not mated.
After 3 years of beekeeping I finally successfully overwintered both colonies. However, both prepared to swarm in April. In one colony, I found heavy “bearding” and several virgin queens had left with small swarms but the old queen remained in the hive so I quickly made a swarm-control split with her. In the other colony, upon opening I found a number of queen cells so I moved the queen I found to form another split. (In both colonies I found much mature brood but no young brood, suggesting they were both ready to swarm.)
However, after a week I checked and I think the queen I took for the split may be a virgin as she was just running around the nuc frames and doesn’t appear to have attendants. The queen in the nuc I formed from splitting the other colony acts like a queen — moves slowly and has attendants. My question is this: Should I move the apparently virgin queen back to the “mother” hive or just leave her alone for a bit. I am concerned about the colony I took her from. If she was the successful virgin to hatch in that colony and I took her away, what will they do? They did “roar” for a day or so after I moved her. There are many bees in that colony still, but no brood at all now. I saw a few queen cells but one was opened from the side. Thanks so much for any advice.
If you had queen cells and one was opened from the side, another queen is probably in there. Be patient. It can take a while for all the mating and maturing to take place.
Really love your site – thank you for sharing all of your bee wisdom! I have a question about bearding patterns (or more generally, entrance patterns) – we have two hives next to each other. In the first hive, the bees use the whole entrance (and bearding occurs all across the front with a large number of bees), and in the second hive, they only use one corner of the entrance (the corner closest to the first hive – and they beard with much fewer bees, still in that one corner). The hives are also facing a slightly different direction – one is facing more south, another is facing southeast. Does this mean that one hive is less habitable than the other if they are not occupying the whole entrance? Should we shift it to face the same direction? Is there a reason why they are only on one side? At the same time, the second hive (with the small corner bearding) swarmed recently, so the hive should have been healthy enough to do that. Or so I assume! Thanks in advance.
I don’t believe it means anything. Just as two families utilize a house differently, two colonies can utilize a hive differently.
Hi! I read your information often and I find it very helpful!! I am having a swarming problem with my hives. I am fairly certain I know why. No matter that, I now have this issue to contend with. I have caught several swarms. Some have stayed and others not. I am ok with that. I have one hive that has been a swarm machine. It swarmed for the second time earlier this week. They landed very high in a tree on lightweight limbs so I had to say ok bye. Today there is a very large group of bees gartered under the original hive, clinging to the screen bottom board. Is this the swarm from this hive I did not capture? Or is something else going on? What should I be doing with them? Thank you so much!!
It is most likely a swarm from a different hive that settled there due to the odor. You can collect this swarm and put it in a box to start a new colony.