Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bee Bearding is the New Cat Bearding

It's been hot here the last couple of days.  During the week I don't really notice it that much because my office is a chilly 60 degrees during the summer.  Seriously, most of the girls in there have heaters under their desks because it gets that cold.  I have to dress in jeans and sweaters and only notice the heat when I drive home. 

The bees, however, definitely notice the heat.  When I came home over the weekend, Mike told me to grab my camera because they were bearding.  After I asked what the hell that meant, I did as I was told and headed behind the garage with my camera ready to check it out.  For those that don't know, "bearding" is when the hive gets really hot and some of the older bees gather on the outside to keep the hive from getting too hot, and to let the worker bees have space to do their thing.  Here's a quick article I found to explain it a little better.

Mike first took off the board that covers the back entrance to provide more ventilation.  He put it on top of the fire pit because it was covered in bees.  They hang out for awhile, but then realize they're not in the hive and eventually fly back home.


The hive is behind the garage which is shaded by our neighbors tree, so it's a little cooler, but it was in the high 80's over the weekend.

At first, I was a little in shock at all the bees at the entrance, (so much so I forgot to change any settings on the camera).


I'm not sure what's going on with the buckets holding the roof down, but if Mike did it, he had some sort of reason to.  Also, now you can see why I've been begging for a new fire pit.  I think the plan is to scrap that one eventually.

The hive's entrance is usually busy with bees coming and going, but it looks more like this on normal days.  The top white bar is removable and has a couple different size holes which allow the bees to better protect the hive. During the really active months we remove it altogether and it allows more bees to come and go, not to mention better ventilation.


It didn't take long for me to get closer.  I'm not one to get skittish around them, I mean I did bring them home like this in the back of my car back in the day:


It's so crazy to me that they all just hang out like this and meanwhile the worker bees are still flying in and out, continuing to collect pollen and/or water.


Some of the bees close to the opening will regulate the hive's temperature by clinging to the board and flapping their wings to bring in cooler air.  It's hard to photograph, but really neat to watch.


People always ask if I'm afraid of the bees.  While I don't do a lot of the hive maintenance that requires actually opening it up like Mike does, (I'm usually making the bee food if needed, while he opens it up to put it in), I do like to go back here to check it out. 

At first I would only go back with the full jacket and hood, and long pants.  But, now I'm more confident and head back wearing whatever I want.  I've never been stung by any of our honey bees, (and probably never in my past either, since people who think they've been stung by a bee usually get stung by wasps, not honey bees, since honey bees usually only bother you if you're pissing them off).  I've learned how to approach the hive, and when's the best time to check them out.  The bees have a path that they use to fly in and out of the hive.  It's actually around the hive in the opposite direction of the photo above, (something I'm very aware of when on the off-chance I'm mowing the yard).  And, they are active during the day, but are very calm at night and early morning.

To prove what a bad-ass I am I took a picture of what I was wearing when I took these photos. 


I think my status of a bad-ass is greatly reduced when I wear Mike's crocs, but I still feel pretty confident around all our little bees.

And, if that wasn't enough bee knowledge for one day, I noticed something in the first photo while I was writing this post.  The big-butted black bee, (that sounds bad), in the middle of the board on the left is a drone. 


There are 3 types of bees in a hive, the Queen bee, the worker bees, and drones.  Drones are the males.  They don't have a stinger.  Pretty much their only job is to mate with the queen.  Actually, come winter time they get kicked out of the hive to die.  Rough life, but it's kinda cool how the hive is is so woman-centric. 

Drones and bearding.  Hope you learned something new!  I know I'm constantly learning new things even about my own pets!

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