Bearding – what does it mean?

Flow bees wanted to get in on the Movember action this year and have been bearding around their Flow Hives.

What’s bearding all about anyway?

Although we’ve made this cute link to Movember (especially with temperature in our local area in Australia soaring to mid 30°C (86 degrees Fahrenheit) well-before summer, which resulted in many hives to develop this look-alike characteristic), bearding bees, in fact, have nothing to do with facial hair.

Bearding is a term referring to bees accumulating at the front of the hive, in a beard-like shape. Bees do this to make room inside the hive for added ventilation on a hot and humid day. Both the temperature and humidity within the hive is kept to a precise percentage, for both the brood (they require temperatures 32-36C / 90-97F to form properly) and ambient humidity for nectar to be evaporated to honey.

Bearding – what does it mean?

Bearding bees can often be confused for a hive preparing to swarm, however, bearding bees look slightly different to a hive about to swarm.

Here are some differences between bearding bees and swarm preparations:

Bees bearding

  • bees clustering at the front (both entrance/landing board and front panel) of the hive, in an attempt to make space inside the hive

  • it’s an exceptionally hot day

  • bees at the entrance facing in the same direction, fanning, trying to cool down the temperature of the hive

  • witnessed on days with higher humidity and heat– as temperatures drop in the late evening, bees should go back into the hive

Indicators your colony might be preparing to swarm

  • congestion/lack of space in the brood box. Is your hive overcrowded?

  • a beard-like formation is accompanied by increased aerial activity in front of the hive (bearding bees crawl out of the hive without becoming airborne)

  • there are queen cells in your hive

Bearding is normal bee behavior. If you have concerns and feel unsure about whether your hive is simply bearding or preparing to swarm, we recommend getting in touch with a local beekeeping mentor, or beekeeping club/association/society, or ask the friendly Flow community forum.

"Ask two beekeepers one question, get three answers."

At Flow, we love to hear from all kinds of beekeepers using all types of methods, but their views are their own and are not necessarily endorsed by Flow. We advise reading widely, connecting with your local beekeeping association and finding a mentor as you delve into this fascinating hobby.