Bearding Bees (Tuesday 26th. May)

We thought that one of our hives might be about to swarm this morning. The front of the hive was one third covered with bees at least three or four deep with a large cluster hanging down beneath the landing board. Complete congestion at the entrance. Bees pouring out, incoming bees loaded with pollen, water or nectar struggling to get back in. If you’ve ever travelled on the Central Line in the rush hour in London you will know what I mean.
Mark, Eve and Kimberley were watching and waiting. Would our bees swarm? Were the bees waiting for the queen to appear? Where would they go? Could we recapture and hive them? We watched and waited. Then after about half an hour, bit by bit the congestion died down, no more bees came out, certainly not a queen ready to elope with her swarm. One or two bees returned to the hive, perhaps for a pollen butty and a cup of nectar. The idea caught on and more and more bees went back inside. The great cluster of bees just shrank away.
Time to tap that font of information that exists down the phone line. It seems that on hot and humid days the temperature inside the hive can rise to dangerous levels perhaps threatening the brood. Bees can normally cool the brood chamber by fanning with their wings, spraying water about and evaporating it. If this isn’t working then the older bees will move outside. This reduces the heat mass inside and also allows more room for air currents to waft the excess heat away. Once the temperature is back under control the outside bees will return. I always thought that mankind invented air conditioning. Not true insects were doing it effectively millions of years before we arrived on this planet.
For more information try
Tomorrow on our bee evening we will check the hive for anything that may be restricting ventilation, and we will add another super to give our still expanding bee colony plenty of room.