Bearding or Swarming…

Dear fellow forum participants,

I am based in London (U.K.) and we are in full spring here, though the weather has not been great so far. The temperature are below average for this season, but my bee colony has very much awaken and been extremely active.

In fact, the bees have acted a bit “weird” in the last few weeks.

First, I had multiple instance where the bees (always between 11am and 1pm) started flying in huge (I mean really huge) quantity around the hive. So much that it alerted my neighbours due to the huge bee cloud in the sky. The first day I thought it was my first experience of swarming. But the strange thing is that they do not seem to have deserted the hive. The hive is still pretty full. And they seem to cool down and progressively return to the hive after a good hour of massive (really spectacular) flying. I read

this could be “recognition first flight” of new worker bees but looking at video on internet, it seem that the quantity my bees flying above my hive was way way much higher than what I have seen on internet. I have posted a video of one of the event so that you can have a look.
Does anyone have any idea of what is the behaviour of the bees on my first video?

Second, I have noted that every single day I have a high quantity of bees gathering under the hive in what looks like bearding. Though again, looking at example on internet, bearding is usually a much smaller quantity and rarely (I did not see any similar situation on Internet) under the hive. The example I was able to find seem to always be in front of the hive. Even weirder, the other day, my bees had accumulated in the branch of a tree. So, again, I thought they might be swarming or preparing to do so. But every evening, the accumulation of bees (whether under the hive or on the tree branch) disappear as the bees go back inside the hive. In the evening, usually the bees are all back inside the hive. I have posted a second video to show what is going one.

Does anyone have any clues on what is going on?
Do you think my bees are bearding? Or preparing to swarm?
Has anyone already had the same issue?
Are there any actions I should take?

Many thanks in advance for sharing you experience, knowledge and insight😊

Kind regards, Vincent

what is the constitution of your hive? How many boxes do you have in place. It strikes me that they may need room

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Hi Vincent, you are in spring, so your bees are preparing to swarm, it’s how they reproduce. You can prevent them from swarming by taking urgent steps (if it’s not too late) to trick them into thinking they have already swarmed. It requires extra brood boxes & following instructions. I went into great detain recently in another thread. I’ll try to find it.

I tried to help @Mike-s out.

Last week I talked myself silly trying to help someone else out. So I’m taking a sabbatical.


Hi @vfrancois - your bees are definitely swarming. They will issue more than one swarm in a season, and it’s hard to tell where things stand now until you inspect. I know you said that there still seem to be a lot of bees, but usually they will not just fly out as a cluster and return many times. This happens once, many twice? before they leave for good. I suspect that 1 or more have departed by now, and if you have a double brood setup (what @john_lawson was asking) then there could be more to come…er, go!

When is the last time you inspected?

PS: enjoy your break, @JeffH :sunglasses:

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Thank you @Eva :slight_smile: My sabbatical is from overly trying to help people. After re-reading what I posted this past week, I chastised myself, asking “what was I thinking”. Wilma also chastised me :slight_smile:

We’re both recovering from Covid. Today’s the first day I really felt like doing something. However I kept busy harvesting, peeling, slicing, blanching & packing for the freezer. Ginger, Chinese Water Chestnuts, Yacon (that got blanched). I’m sure there was something else. I did a heap of sweet potatoes before we got Covid, they also got blanched. Plus extracting honey.

Prior to Covid we got an offer we couldn’t refuse. I needed a few more buckets. I went to get a hundred, I finished up bringing home 440, which was all I could fit on my truck. They were free, all we had to do was wash & sanitize the yoghurt out of them, which took a good week. It wasn’t expected, however they welcomed the honey we took back to them, to give to the workers.

The photo doesn’t do justice to the enormity of it. They are single-use (supposedly) 10 liter buckets.


So sorry to hear you both were sick! Glad you’re feeling better and conserving your helping energies more wisely too :hugs::cherry_blossom:.

It hardly seemed to slow you down, wow!! And those buckets - single use my foot :face_with_raised_eyebrow: Bet they will come in handy.

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Thank you Eva. I was pleased I was feeling a bit better yesterday, on account that I went down to my bees in the afternoon to discover that the cows had knocked a hive over. The brood box looked ok, so I didn’t look into that, which I should do today. The honey super was upside down & getting robbed out, with hive beetles getting started on the dead bees between the combs. I was lucky in one respect because the hive didn’t have a 10 frame nuc (which are getting quite heavy) on top of it. The hive next to it did, & it nearly went over.

A herd of cows could really make a mess at the moment, because half of my hives have heavy 10 frame nucs on top.

I’ve been using these “single use” buckets for a few years now. Because of a recent honey flow (which has come to an abrupt stop after 2 days of recent rain, & cold weather), I got down to 25 empty buckets. I heard that the yoghurt factory was going to stop using them, I thought I’d better round up some more. This was the first time they were free, & as many as I wanted. Having said that, last time I got 150 for $60, what was still dirt cheap. Things have changed since then, the factory has moved to a rural area & everything is different.

I lot of them still had at least a cup of yoghurt left in them, so I scooped that out, as well as under the lids before giving everything a hot bath with plenty of detergent & bleach, before giving them a cold shower. A hundred a day was a big day.

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Hi Jeff. Everytime I see you replying on the forum it prompts me to think I need to call you, just to chat about lots of stuff. Shares, bees, food, anything.
But I know you’re such a busy person I think I’m just delaying your work on your many hobbies. You have such a valuable resource in your life experiences that the majority of readers appreciate your knowledge. No matter how many times you repeat yourself. :roll_eyes:

I probably get the buckets from the same company. Ash my Border Collie has great delight helping initially clean up the remnant yoghurt.
Having said all that, I think I’ll call you soon. :call_me_hand::slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi Al, I got them from Image Flat Rd. Nambour. I filled up at least 4 buckets with yoghurt, which ended up being 7 as it started bubbling & overflowing. Lucky it was cold weather. I buried it with some dolomite in a place where I don’t intend planting anything for a couple of months. It was shocking to see the waste, however there must be one worker that also hated waste, on account that some buckets were scraped fairly clean.

We had a dog here the other day, it went straight to the spot where a bucket overflowed :slight_smile:

Call me for sure Al, especially if you’re chasing honey. Even more so if you’re chasing nucs :slight_smile:
I extracted last Thursday, now I’m extracting again tomorrow, then I’ll probably extract again on Thursday. I’m only doing 4-5 boxes at a time, which I find easier to handle these days.

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