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Newbee here - Why do my bees "clean" themselves before flight?


Hi All!

I have had a hard time finding this answer on the all-powerful interwebs… Just before my bees leave the hive to fly awy, they seem to clean their face/eyes. Why do they do this? Is it like cleaning the windshield before you drive? :wink: Just so curious!! Thanks! -Dawn


I have no idea Dawn, I haven’t seen it myself.
Some of mine hang about outside the entrance before flying and others fly immediately. It will be interesting if others can shed some light on your question. Does this happen with both of your hives? Are we talking about what percentage of the bees do it?


I just went and watched a hive entrance to see if I could see this behavior. What I saw was that around 60% of the bees seemed to run and fly straight out of the entrance- whilst a smaller number did seem to pause for a split second and touch their faces. I have no idea why- I guess it could be as you say- that they are adjusting checking their eyes before flight. I wonder also if there is some small adjustment happening as they go from the dark of the hive into the light?

Being creatures that fly like birds- it wouldn’t surprise me that they preen and clean their equipment before flying to make sure there are no issues. Birds spend a lot of time preening and adjusting their feathers for flight worthiness.


They could be straightening their antennae prior to flight. They would bump into things in the dark of the hive I reckon. They might straighten out other fine hairs too and generally clean off tiny bits of things that have stuck to them whilst in the hive.


@Dawn_NorthChicago I think Dan is right. I just got back from my hives and yes, the ones that don’t take flight straight away do seem to be stroking their antennae, a good question and so observant of you Dawn. Maybe they are cleaning any wax particles off their antennae.


They’re checking their goggles!


Thanks everyone! I watched again this morning and it seems to be about 50/50. My hives are young and still small in numbers, so I can get up close and hang out at the entrance for a bit, check them out, talk to them…:wink: It’s my favorite thing to do every morning! :honeybee::yellow_heart:


i do that too- take care though- as a hive gets older it gets more guard bees. I have one hive that I look at a lot- twice- out of the blue- a bee has just instantly darted in and stung me without warning. It’s easy to get complacent…


When you go to say ‘good morning’ to them as you get closer be aware if they seem to be a bit antsy and if so at least wear a veil. they can for no known reason get a bit ‘up tight’, of course perfume is a no no. but often if you can open the hive and do an inspection you might see the cause. If they are ‘hot’ one day it might be best to leave them and the next day they might be as quiet as a baby asleep.