Observing The Bees - Bearding
Bearding - a term referring to bees accumulating on the front of a hive, sometimes in the shape of a beard.
To the onlooker, the sight of a bunch of bees accumulating at the front of a hive or cavity often sets alarm bells ringing, usually with the notion that the colony is about to swarm. However, there can be a number of other reasons for this behaviour. Some of the most common reasons are :
In the UK swarming typically takes place during the months of April / May / June. Swarming is the bee's way of repopulating. Half the colony flies off with the existing queen to set up a new nest, leaving the existing half to raise a new queen and continue on with their existence. There is often a period of activity at the hive entrance while they prepare to take flight.
Common predators of the bees will be wasps and hornets. The bees will accumulate outside the hive to defend the entrance. Sometimes they can be seen displaying a shimmering effect to ward off invaders. If you see wasps or hornets in the vicinity at the time then there is a good chance that this is the reason for such behaviour. Commonly witnessed in mid to late summer
During prolonged spells of hot weather, the bees may need to create space in the nest area to allow air circulation of air to help maintain the ambient temperature.
Again the bees may need to increase the circulation of air within the nest space to help evaporate the nectar. They need to reduce the water content to 20% to prevent it from fermenting. They may be seen fanning at the entrance to help this process.
An Over Crowded Colony
As the bees go about their daily duties they will generate a certain amount of heat within the nest area. If it’s overcrowded they will need to make room to help control the temperature. If it gets to this stage, then the colony may be thinking about swarming
There are probably other reasons unbeknown to us why the bees resort to the act of bearding. What's important to remember is that the bees will be doing it for a very good reason and we shouldn’t worry too much, after all the bees know best!