May 22, 2013
Once we got the queen cell non-issue resolved, the weather turned hot and sticky and the bees became more active and more present on the fronts of their hives. Bees like to hang out front when it’s hot outside, much like we enjoy hanging out on the front porch when it’s hot and the house isn’t air conditioned. This is called bearding. They form a sizable cluster that can cover a large portion of the hive surface. This would make most unknowing passerby’s nervous.
What made me nervous was the difference in activity between the hives. While the yellow hive has a small amount of clustering at the entrance, the green hive bearded half the hive from early morning through dusk. I was still paranoid about the possibility of swarming, but I had checked the hives and they both appeared to be developing at the same rate and we’d only installed the nucs a week prior.
I posted the question to the Frederick County Beekeepers and sent them the photo below of both hives at 6:30 am.
Members were kind enough to send photos of their hives at the same time of morning, and they looked very similar to mine, with one hive appearing overcrowded and covered in bees, and the other showing no bearding at all.
One member said his hives have different habits and personalities. One likes to sleep in while the other wakes and collects outside in the early hours. One may be more sensitive to loud noises than the other. One may be easy going an unaffected by much of anything. One may be more active and easily irritated. They’re all different.
Regardless, bearding is normal. Just a chance for the girls to escape the hot crowded hive and enjoy a bit of social time.
When to Add Another Brood Chamber
I also asked about when I should add another brood box since the bees seemed so crowded. The common answer was to wait until the last one or two frames are completely drawn out and capped before adding another box. That’s because bees like to work upward, so if you give them space to go up, then they will ignore the frames on the far sides and use every last bit of the space they’re given.
Association Dues are Paying Off?
I joined the Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) back when I took the class in January. The cost is $10 per year and they hold monthly meetings that focus on all different bee topics. I never attended a meeting and I don’t know any of the members. For this reason, I hesitated sending questions to the group forum. But I reached a point where I just needed some help and reassurance, so I bit the bullet and sent them an email. The responses were incredibly nice, generous and informative.
It’s well known that if you throw out a question to 10 different beekeepers, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, and this was partially true. It’s fascinating to hear the different practices and the reasons behind them. But when the answers do coincide, there’s no question of what has to be done. These people don’t know me from atom, but after several rounds of emails, I already feel like I’m part of the group and I’m eager to attend my first meeting as an official beekeeper. These people love sharing their knowledge and responding to questions, and I’m more than happy to soak it all in.