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Bearding more than usual - and it’s not very hot!

I have been reading through the threads on bearding and don’t see my specific situation, so I thought I would ask.

My bees have been bearding a lot for the past week or so, including at night. We are in San Francisco, and it does not get very hot here!! (50 - 70 is usually the range).

My set up is as follows - screened bottom board, 8 frame deep brood box, 8 frame medium brood box, queen excluder, flow frames (first generation/classic flow hive combined with a bit of my old equipment). I have a water source a few feet from the hive that they seem to pretty much ignore.

I inspected this past Saturday, and then extracted the honey from the flow frames on Sunday. Things looked in order, but I did notice a few things-

  1. during the extraction - there were a bunch of bees at the back of the hive when I removed the cover. I have never seen this before. In the past I have been able to extract with minimal bee interference. Not the case this time.
  2. During the inspection I never found the queen but did see all egg stages. There were way more mature stages then “rice” stages. I did not see any queen cups/things that made me think they were about the swarm.
  3. It generally did seem pretty crowded. In the old days before the flow hive, I would have added another super.
  4. the bees are not aggressive per se, but they did follow me around the garden last week, which the normally don’t do.

This is my 11th year keeping bees and my 4th with the flow hive. I never had any issues (maybe beginners luck!) until I got the flow hive, and have had all sorts of issues since (hard to tell what’s related or not. Issues over the past few years have including queen failure, etc) so I am a bit paranoid!

I have never observed this level of consistent bearding, or any bearding at night, so any insight you have is greatly appreciated.

Extracting can lead to some leakage back into the brood below.

Thanks for your reply. The extraction was yesterday (Sunday) and the bearding has been going on for about a week, so not sure the behavior it related to the extraction.

Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

OK, so I have a few questions.

  1. Did you extract all frames on the same day?
  2. Did you open the frames in 20% sections and wait to avoid an airlock before opening another section?
  3. Have you checked your core flute slider for honey drips/lakes?
  4. Did you re-tighten your Flow frame wires before putting the super on?
  5. Did you check that your hive had a backward tilt to assist honey drainage?
  6. Did you check that the Flow channels at the bottom of the Flow frames were free of wax and propolis near the round Flow tube caps?

Depending on your answers, I would agree with @HappyHibee, the most likely cause of bearding lasting that long in cool weather is a honey flood from under the cappings during the harvest. I would suggest that you remove the slider and inspect it, but also inspect the hive ASAP. Bees don’t like having wet feet, even if the wet is honey… :wink:

Thanks for the reply! Just to clarify the timeline, the bearding starting a little over a week ago, and the extraction was yesterday.

To answer your questions:

  • I extracted all the frames of the honey yesterday.

  • Before putting the flow frame on this year I did check the wires.

  • The flow channels look pretty clear to me.

  • I don’t keep the corflute slider in, upon suggestion from a local beekeeper from when I got started. So, on a normal day it is just the screened bottom. I will slide it in for testing, winter, etc. Do you suggest another method?

  • The flow hive I purchased included a slanted bottom, so there is presumably enough of a tilt towards the back. Or does it need to be manually adjusted more?

  • Can you tell me more about opening in 20% sections? I am not familiar with this.

One last question- how long would bees beard before a swarm? Since it’s been over a week, does that mean I can stop worrying about that? This was a new queen and bee package installed in mid- April.

Thanks very much, appreciate the advice!

Thank you for clarifying the timeline. Very helpful! :blush:

I normally only extract 2 per hive, to avoid flooding accidents. I think Cedar can get away with harvesting the whole super, but I don’t risk that

Excellent, good job!

This is controversial. If it works for you, fine, keep doing it. However, it looks like your hive is resting on the ground. Mine are all elevated so that the landing board is about 16-18" above ground level. The reason is that we have a lot of possums and raccoons here, and raising the landing board helps with deterring them. Additionally, if you have a honey leak from the Flow frames, you probably won’t see it if your hive is resting on terra firma :wink:

Depends on whether you installed it on level ground. I can’t tell from your photo (which is very pretty, by the way!)

I made a bad a YouTube video about this. My first ever attempt at YouTube, apologies for the lack of finesse!

Please ask if you have more questions

:blush:

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I agree with everything that @Dawn_SD & @HappyHibee said, especially on lifting the hive off the ground. For me the reason is Cane Toads.

My gut feeling on the bearding (however not severe), seeing as you had it for a week before harvesting the honey & based on the crowding you observed as well as your observations of the brood during the last inspection would be bordering on overcrowding.

In my situation, I normally remove some of those “mature stages” brood frames you mentioned, before adding them to a weaker colony. Alternatively I’d take a split, including those mature stage brood frames, as long as there are some eggs & young larvae included. I’d take that split out of the foraging range so that no bees return.

That strategy is to avoid the colony from swarming. You might need a different strategy in your climate.

cheers

Thanks so much for all the thoughtful feedback. The hive is elevated on cinderblocks, the photo was just from a funny angle. Attached is a better one.

So, what do you think could be causing the bearding? They are still doing it. It’s almost 10pm, and 57 degrees and they are bearding right now!

I am at a bit off a loss of what to do. Before the flow hive, I would have added a super. Does that still make sense?

Thanks, @JeffH ! I have but one hive in my small backyard, so removing frames involves coordinating with someone in the local bee club :slight_smile:
I am a little apprehensive to do a split based on the lack of young stage eggs. I suppose I could remove a few of the frames from the brood box that are primarily honey. There were quite a few. Do you think that would make a difference?

Removing honey frames could help however it doesn’t deal with the overcrowding. I look at an overcrowded colony today, then try to imagine how it will be after a lot of the sealed brood has emerged. Grossly overcrowded by then I suspect. Assuming that the mortality rate is less than the population growth.

I split 2 colonies myself today on account of overcrowding. I robbed these hives this morning with a jacket over my bee suit, that’s how cold it was. The honey supers were full of bees which I thought was a bit premature seeing as more bees are required to keep the brood warm, so therefor I expected all the honey supers to be a bit light on with bees. Most of them were.

The brood frames I took with the splits were basically wall to wall brood. I didn’t look for young brood or eggs because I know there will be some somewhere in amongst the 8 frames (4 from each hive) I combined into one large split.

In your case just examine the frames closely to see if there are eggs or young larvae. Quite often you’ll find eggs on frames where a lot of bees are emerging.

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It does. You don’t really treat a flow any different than other hives. You can add another super if needed.

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It does. I wonder if it is just crowding - you did mention that there were a lot of bees when you inspected. I have a medium super on top of my Flow super - it seems to help encourage the bees to cap the Flow frames. :wink:

The slatted rack also helps with reducing bearding. My bees hardly ever beard, even on hot days. :blush:

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Oh interesting! Thanks @Dawn_SD and @Wizard re the feedback on adding a super. I realized after I wrote that I didn’t ask specifically about adding a brood box versus a honey super. I have mediums that I can add.

It’s nice to see your set up, Dawn!

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No harm adding a traditional super underneath the flow super to create more room…

I added a slatted rack 2 days ago. Check out the bearding difference. Looks like they figured out how it works. :grin:

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Wow @Wizard! Thanks for sharing. I ordered one a few days ago.

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You guys prompted me to look into slatted racks. I found this video.

The bloke spends quite a while explaining the advantages of using them, then near the end of the video he said that he doesn’t use them on his hundred, sometimes two hundred hives.

@FrederickDunn owns one, but doesn’t use it.

I’m torn between making one to try out & going on a fishing trip. Decisions, decisions.

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I agree with this fellow. For people with a couple of hives and particularly for those who find pleasure in trying various beekeeping equipment slatted racks could be useful. Otherwise, issues he discusses may have simpler solutions. Winter drafts - reduce the entrance size. Extra ventilation - even if hive does not have a wide entrance - couple of wedges between bottom board and brood box to create a vent.

For me personally, fishing trip beats salted rats any day :smiley:

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I agree, in this case fishing will have to come first :slight_smile:

I like the idea of the bottoms of the frames being used. I’ll pay more attention in the coming months of any gaps in the bottoms of brood frames while splitting.

There is a lot of wood involved with a slatted rack, which in my case all needs to be treated before painting. There is some work involved, however it could be worthwhile going to the trouble if the advantages are quite noticeable.

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Interesting the differences that climates make. Here in SoCal, the pine slatted racks rapidly get waxed on the interior surfaces by the bees. I only treat the outside, and they are still great after 6 years.

:wink:

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