Watching your bees come and go can be a really fun and interesting way to pass some time and learn more about bee. These fascinating creatures have a wide repertoire of behaviours when coming and going. Here are some things to watch out for around the hive entrance:
Bearding or Swarming?
If the bees are clustered in a ball around the hive entrance, they may be preparing to swarm. They will swarm when the hive is getting too full with bees and honey. If the bees are cooling the hive, they will go back inside when the temperature drops. If they are getting ready to swarm, they stay around the entrance in the evening and often hang down in a ball from the entrance. It can be good to anticipate this, because if you get there in time you may be able to split the hive before they swarm, thus giving you a new colony. Splitting the hive is often easier than trying to catch a swarm.
Perfume in the air
Another reason that you could see bees fanning is to spread a pheromone called nasonov. They will raise their bottom ends in the air, emitting the pheromone from a gland and fanning it into the air with their wings. They sometimes do this when preparing to swarm, but they usually do it to call foraging bees back to the hive.
Sometimes you will see a big cloud of buzzing activity around the hive, which often takes place in the afternoon. This could be young bees taking their first orientation flights. If you watch closely, you will see that many of the bees are leaving the hive, but not going far to forage. They will do short loops around the entrance and return to the hive to get to know the area. Younger bees are more lightly coloured, and hairier than the older ones.
You may notice your bees lined up along the entrance to the hive, doing what looks like a bee "Mexican Wave". The bees will rock back and forth while licking or chewing at the hive. Why do they do it? No one knows for sure, it's a bee mystery.
Cops & Robbers
Sometimes you might have bees from other colonies trying to get access to your hive to steal the honey. You will see guard bees confronting and fighting with these thieves around the entrance. You can help them out by blocking part of the entrance, so the intruders have a smaller space to get in. If you notice your hive is attracting robbers, it can be a sign that your colony is weak or having problems.
Watching bees returning to the hive, you will often see them carrying bright yellow or orange balls on their hind legs. This is the pollen they have been out collecting from the flowers all around. Pollen is the bees' protein source, which they ferment to make bee bread. It's a great sign to see your bees carrying big bundles of pollen back to the hive, it's said they can carry up to half their own weight in pollen! Pretty impressive.
So that's some of the behaviours you're likely to see from bees around the hive entrance. Check out our Facebook live video on the topic, where Cedar also answers a range of questions from budding beekeepers.
Flow Hive - Entrance observations 👀🐝Posted by Flow Hive on Tuesday, April 16, 2019