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Bee-Ginner's Guide

Welcome to the Bee-ginner's Guide Blog. Here we will go over topics and tips you might need as you go through your first year as a beekeeper.

Most of us have probably seen hives or pictures of hives where a large collection of bees are gathering outside the entrance in a large lump. I know what you’re thinking; no, the hives are not going through an old hipster phase. This process, known as bearding, is actually a very common occurrence that every colony instinctively performs.

Bearding is a procedure the bees follow to help with temperature regulation during hot weather. A large group of bees gather together at the entrance of the hive and it tends to take the appearance of a large fluffy beard on the front of the hive, hence the name bearding. These bees are stepping outside of the hive to reduce heat generated inside the hive and provide more space for air to flow though the hive, keeping the temerature more stable.

The optimum internal temperature of a hive should be around 98 degrees F and if the external temperatures start to get too high, bearding is one of the most natural reactions from honey bees. Some beekeepers also see bearding as a sign of a healthy colony because large, healthy colonies will have plenty of bees available to help with ventilation while still foraging. While bearding can look like a swarm, it is not to be considered a sign of swarming.

If you see bearding several times during the season it can mean the bees are having trouble maintaining the optimum temperature in their hive. When the bees have to spend so much time trying to provide ventilation they will have less workers available for foraging. At this point there are a handful of things you could do to help provide ventilation:

  • Simple hacks such as propping up corners of the inner cover with thin pieces of wood such as Popsicle sticks.

  • With a reliable water source the bees can fan the water through the hive to help lower the hive temperature.

  • Opening upper entrances or temporarily switching out your inner cover for a ventilated inner cover with a screened bottom board can help provide air circulation throughout the hive.

  • Placing your hive on top of a slatted rack will provide additional ventilated air space in the hive to help provide more room to allow air to flow. Learn more about Slatted Racks in this month's Know Your Product blog.

Bearding is not something to be afraid of at all. If you see your hive bearding then you know that your hive is thriving and is working hard to keep their hive running smoothly. ┬áIf you fear that bearding is disrupting your hives foraging, you can always help provide better ventilation in the hive so the bees don’t have to.