Bearding or Massive clearance sale on drones?

A week on from the hive split and I noticed a lot of bees on the outside of the hive I split. See how the other hive, in the background of this picture, has no “beard” outside the entrance?

Get out you useless males!

Get out you useless males!

If you click on the picture it will open up in more detail in another window. I see two possibilities for what’s going on here.

1. Overcrowding. This was my initial assumption, so I gave them more room in the hive by moving a divider. And an hour later, the beard was gone.

2. But if you examine the picture closely, it appears they’re all drones. Have they been evicted? It may seem an odd time to do this – it normally happens in autumn – but if the colony thought it had swarmed, due to the split a week ago, it has Too Many Useless Blokes Lying Around. So the excess males could have been chucked out. But they’d almost all gone in an hour – whereas in autumn they hang around for many hours, trying to get back into the hive until they freeze.

Anyone know what happened here?

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3 Responses to Bearding or Massive clearance sale on drones?

  1. simplebees says:

    My experience of bearding bees is that it is humidity related. The bees move out of the hive to allow space for air movement within the hive. A quick look at the met office forecast for tomorrow shows expected peaks in humidity in the range of 90%, even though the probability of rain is modest. Summer evenings when nectar is being ripened will often be marked by bearding for the same reason, although this time the humidity in the hive comes from the nectar rather than the weather. You giving the bees more space allowed more air circulation in the hive and thus the bees felt able to move back indoors.

    But that, of course, does not explain the prevalence of drones in the beard. It could be just that there are a lot of drones in the hive. It could be that the drones were being preferentially encouraged to go and sit on the porch. It could be that the splitting itself affected the pheromone balance in the hive and the drones were, or felt, less welcome indoors than before. Drones were being evicted from hives earlier in the year when the weather was cold and reproduction was not in the forefront of the hive mind. Whether that is still the case, I’m not sure.

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  2. itsonlyausername says:

    I don’t profess to even know why the drones do anything being a complete beginner here but a few things sprang to mind.
    Temperature regulation.
    Impending swarm.
    Possible upset due to the weather.
    False alarm for swarm.
    Defensive behaviour due to threat to hive from unknown sources.

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  3. itsonlyausername says:

    Oh and what you said…..overcrowding.

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