Bearding: Are My Bees Going to Swarm? thumbnail image

Bearding: Are My Bees Going to Swarm?

Summer is officially here, and it is HOT!

If you’ve noticed your bees clustered at the hive entrance, you might have a few questions about what they’re doing. Are they going to swarm? Do I need to do anything to stop this?

The answer is pretty simple: they’re trying to cool off! The good news is, you don’t need to do anything except sit back and enjoy watching what beekeepers call “bearding.”

Bearding and swarming are two different situations. Understanding what they both mean and when beekeepers should intervene is important. In this post, we’ll explore bearding and swarming so you’re confident going into the hot summer months with your bees.

What’s the Difference between Bearding and Swarming?

Bearding happens when honey bees form what looks like a beard at the hive’s entrance. If there’s hot and humid weather, your bees will be hot inside their hive, especially during the peak of the day. Like you, they are looking for a way to cool off, so they head outside the hive for fresh air.

By removing a lot of body heat from the area, they can quickly cool down a hot hive. The bees also use their wings to fan the entrance of the hive, pushing cooler air in, which helps lower the internal temperature of the hive.

Each hive is different, so don’t expect all of your hives to react the same way to the heat. Just know that a healthy colony knows what to do in the hotter months to better control the hive temperature and keep the queen and worker bees cool.

Managing Bee Bearding in Hot Weather

The outdoor temperatures, particularly heat and humidity, can impact the environment within the hive. That’s often why you’ll see bees making the beard pattern on the season’s hottest days. Bees are tough, resilient creatures, but the queen bee and the brood are more sensitive to the heat and need support on the hottest days of the year.

Heat and Temperature Control

As the bees leave the hive and hang out on the outside in a beard-shaped pattern, heat is reduced from the brood nest, congestion in the hive decreases, and there’s more opportunity for ventilation. When you’re experiencing humid weather, the bees will leave the hive and hang out on the front porch to decrease the moisture for the developing brood.

What Should I Do If My Bees Are Bearding?

Bees’ bearding is a sign of a strong colony and good health. It means your bee population is considerable and perhaps already prepared for the winter. They are keeping the honey at the correct temperature by pushing air into the hive to control the internal hive temperature.

Like so many situations with beekeeping, it’s best to let the bees do their thing and simply observe as a bystander. Bees are intelligent and focused creatures. Most of the time, their behavior is for a reason. The best thing beekeepers can do is let them go for it.

If you want to assist the bees with cooling down the hive, you can ensure they have enough space for ventilation within the hive. Some beekeepers will add another super to improve the airflow in the warmer, humid weather.

Your bees may beard for weeks at a time, depending on the temperatures in your area. You may notice they beard late into the evening until the temperatures drop significantly.

Bees also beard when it’s raining because of the humidity in the air, which can also impact the hive. It’s best to stay away from the hive while the bees are bearding, as their temperament may be less than friendly as they work hard to cool down the hive and protect the honey stores.

Are My Bees Swarming or Bearding?

There are a few variances in bearding and swarming. When honey bees are bearding, they will be calm, collected, and in unison around the hive entrance on a hot day. Bearding is a defensive tactic that bees use to protect the hive. Swarming, on the contrary, occurs when some members of the colony are ready to move to a new location with the queen.

Defining Bee Swarming

Swarming generally occurs on a warm, moderate day. With swarming, large quantities of bees will move rapidly and not in any unified pattern. Swarming is typically associated with loud buzzing or humming from the bees. Most bees swarm because they are getting ready to leave their hive with the queen to find a new location to call home, and it usually takes place around midday on a warm summer day.

Swarming bees are focused and on the move and are usually well-fed after tapping into the hive’s sufficient honey supply. This rarely includes the entire colony but a grouping of bees (and the queen) who are ready to find a new place to live.

When bees swarm, they often bring a substantial amount of honey with them to their new hive. Swarms are often so loud because the bees are full of energy and ready to make the move. They also want to appear intimidating because the queen bee is traveling with them to the new location, and they need to protect her during the relocation.

How to Prevent Swarming

To help your bees avoid swarming within a colony, make sure that your bees have enough room to grow and work in the hive. Adequate space prevents potential swarming and keeps the bees building and filling comb. You will know if you need to add supers by keeping up the regular inspection of your hive.

If the bees have filled the frames with comb, they’re probably running out of room, and swarming is imminent. You can add more supers so the colony can continue with its tasks with enough space to do so.

Other reasons your bees may swarm include insufficient access to water or food, so the bees need to move on. If your hive has had issues with disease or parasites, the strong worker bees may be ready to relocate with the queen to prevent a drop in population. Another issue can be pests in the hive or recurrent disturbances from predators. In these situations, the entire colony may swarm and leave the hive.

If the swarming is already happening, you can do the following to make the process easier for yourself and the bees.

Set up a hive nearby: If you’re concerned with the bees relocating far away, you can combat this by creating a new beehive nearby.

Move the queen: Rather than let the swarm move the queen, you can move her yourself to the newly installed hive.

How Does Heat Affect Honey Bees?

If you are new to beekeeping, this may be your first summer season, so seeing your bees bearding may be unusual for you. Understanding how heat can affect the hive and why their behavior may change in the summer months is important.

Bees bearding is actually a sign that the bees are protecting the temperature in the hive. Queen bees require a certain temperature in the hive while mating, and it’s the responsibility of the honey bees to maintain that optimal temperature for the queen. The brood nest also requires a certain temperature and level of humidity in order to develop successfully, typically between 90°F and 97°F.

Supporting Your Bees in the Summertime

While your bees likely have it under control, you can do a few things to help the hive thrive in the summer.

To avoid a nectar shortage (another reason your bees may be bearding), you can plant various pollinator plants around the bee yard. Bee-friendly flowers will ensure the bees have enough nectar to survive the summer, boost their food stores, and maintain a healthy, productive hive.


Once your bees have retreated from bearding, it’s a good idea to do a thorough hive inspection to check on all the members of your hive. Find the queen and monitor how she’s doing. Many beekeepers opt to mark their queen with paint or a marker so she’s easy to find in the hive. Inspect the brood and the comb, and decide if you need to add more supers for the worker bees. Doing so will increase your chances of maintaining a strong colony in the upcoming winter months.

The Final Buzz on Bearding vs. Swarming

Bearding and swarming are two very different situations, but it’s easy to see why they can be confused. Both happen in the warmer months of the year and can appear similar to an untrained eye. Now that you know what to expect in the summertime, you can keep a better eye out for your bees this summer. Just remember, if you see your bees hanging out by the hive entrance on a hot day, you can rest assured they’re just cooling off.