Does this bee behavior make sense?
June 24, 2011 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Beekeepers of Mefi, needing ideas/reassurance: mass washboarding behaviors on the front of the hive, bees all over front entrance -- everyone I've talked to so far has said it's a swarming behavior... but is it? They're certainly taking their sweet time.

The beekeeper that normally helps me/helps brainstorm is indefinitely unavailable due to serious family stuff, so help me AskMefi.

The bees have been mass washboarding all over the front entrance/front of the bottom brood box since very early yesterday morning. I'd been told this is a swarming behavior, especially with all them at the entrance, and they'd set off by the afternoon most likely. I set out a bait hive to try and entice them into it, see if swarm scouts would investigate, and have been trying to check it/get my friends to keep me posted (the hive is 8 miles from where I live). They're still there.
I'd thought swarms happened a lot faster once they started massing up.

However, I did re-queen this hive recently enough/in the appropriate time frame that this could actually be a new generation about to head into the field, which is an idea that another person I'd called threw out there.
This time heading out to the hives was the first time I'd been there in at least a couple of weeks (maybe 3 weeks?) - the weather and my schedule have both been extremely uncooperative. I was going to take a peek at the top and add a medium box , since they were doing well last time, then go in later this weekend/next week when I had more time to clean out traps.

in your experience, does this typically represent pre-swarming behavior? have you ever had this behavior happen where it took a long time for them to actually get up and go?
is this something that you'd see with pre-field-bees before their orientation flights? as in, have you seen this many all at once?
posted by circle_b to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My bees "washboard" pretty much every warm day. My theory is that either its a touch too warm inside the hive or they all enjoy sunshine just like I do.

When they do swarm, they pretty much up and go to a nearby tree or bush where they hang out in a ball for an hour or two and then take off to their final destination. I've thrown of three swarms in the past 2.5 weeks with no more "washboarding" beforehand than on non-swarm days. This hive is still plenty strong - we joke that this hive that makes bees, not honey :)

For what it's worth, I've never been successful rehoming a swarm in a nearby hivebox. The crusty old beekeepers in my guild claim they need to travel at least a mile from their old home before they will settle down to stay. I don't know if that's true, but it makes sense to me.
posted by the_shrike at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, my bees do this every single day once it gets hot. Sometimes they'll cover nearly the entire front of the hive. I suspect your bees are not really swarming. If they're doing it early in the morning, or on a cool day, I'd get nervous; at noon, no worries.
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2011

Response by poster: thanks guys! if two beekeepers manage to agree on something, I will take it :)

I sincerely appreciate it, your answers make me feel a lot better about it... glad to know that the bees are doing alright. beekeeping is a very humbling experience, I have discovered.

The beehives were being seriously neglected when I started trying to look in on them and their populations were really small/weak -- so I guess I never had the chance to see so many of them out there. Cool!
posted by circle_b at 1:53 PM on June 24, 2011

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