In the heat of the summer, with peak populations, this amazing conglomeration called “bearding” may be a common site on your stronger hives, especially in late afternoon / early evening. If it is warm and humid enough, they may also stay out all night. In less strong hives, there may be “moustaching.”
There are various theories as to why they do this; most are along the line of too many bodies and high temperatures in the hive. Consider helping circulation with some or all of the following:
- A screened bottom board.
- A vent super.
- Another hive body (see Beekeeper Hint in this issue).
- A forced air gap (see Beekeeper Hint in this issue).
- Available fresh water that they can take back to the hive to fan and cool the hive—sponges floating in a bird bath are a great way to give them a landing pad to rehydrate.
While it is very common and not usually a cause for concern, be sure your bees have room to work. This massive gathering may also be a sign of an overcrowding, so it may be time to split the hive or add a honey super.