Our bees ‘bearding’ on the hottest October day in Sydney history

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Bee ‘bearding’ describes when a bee hive takes extreme steps to cool the hive. Thousands of bees can hang off the entrance (like a beard), fanning cool air into the hive. By hanging on the outside of the hive, they also reduce the heat load within the hive itself.

It’s not surprising that my hive generated an impressive beard earlier in the week, on the 37°C day that was the hottest October day for Sydney in all of history. What was fascinating (and somewhat scary!) was how the bearding grew during the day (see below).

Apparently this also means I should add a sixth (!) box to the hive, to reduce overcrowding.

Bearding bees, at 11am ...
Bearding bees, at 11am …
... and then at 1pm ...
… then at 1pm …
... and finally at 4pm (that's a lot of bees!)
… and finally at 4pm (that’s a lot of bees!)

PS. apparently the day-time temperature peaked at 4pm that day, which would explain the crazy amount of bearding. (While the bees are on a relatively exposed roof, they do get shade for most of the day from nearby trees.)

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4 thoughts on “Our bees ‘bearding’ on the hottest October day in Sydney history

    theprospectofbees said:
    October 13, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Impressive. Langstroth folk would suggest increasing ventilation by adding an upper entrance or using shims to prop open a gap just below the roof. Admittedly that sounds counter to the Warre notion of retaining heat and smell but the Abbe’s climate was likely not as extreme as yours. But we run Tanzanians so Langstroth and Warre are both outside our experience.

    Doug said:
    October 14, 2013 at 11:50 am

    You will also find radiated heat from the roof is contributing the heat in the hive, I would be placing the hives on perhaps pallets so they do not receive radiated heat. or place a platform on your existing hive stand.

      James responded:
      October 21, 2013 at 10:51 am

      The hives themselves are sitting on a ‘sled’ made of two lengths of hardwood. This does keep them up off the roof, but I agree that the roof can still get pretty hot!

    James responded:
    October 21, 2013 at 10:52 am

    After this crazy day, I added another box (at the bottom – ‘nadiring’, according to good Warre practices). In the process, I discovered that the top box was almost completely full of honey, and the second and third boxes both had some honey.

    No wonder the bees were hot — they were squeezed into a hive packed full of honey!

    Last week we had a 35deg day, and the bees were fine. So, problem solved I think 🙂

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