Honey Bee Festooning
Excerpted from: What Are Festooning Bees?
Excerpted from: Understanding The Beauty Behind Festooning
Some bee activities, like festooning, remain a mystery. In this article we’ll look at
festooning and some theories on why the colony does it.
Festooning is the act of honey bees joining their feet together and looking like they are
holding hands. Festooning bees hang together between frames, interlocking their legs.
When they festoon, bees hang together, forming a moving and living chain. This would
closely resemble a single chain of bees. The bee line is usually one layer deep and
appears open and airy rather than rigid.
The reason for honey bee festooning still isn’t fully understood. Like washboarding,
researchers haven’t reached an agreement on why it occurs. But there are various
theories worth considering.
A popular idea among beekeepers is that festooned bees help the colony calculate distances between
frames. Another common theory is that the “bee bridge” provides scaffolding to make
Some beekeepers speculate that festooning bees create heat for their brood. Greater
wax production in the festoon formation is also a possibility.
Scientists believe the behavior correlates with building out comb and the production of
beeswax but they Researchers haven’t reached an agreement.
Festooning is more likely to take place when a range of other factors occur. Beekeepers
commonly note that there is an abundant supply of pollen and warm weather as bees
festoon. Another time you’ll see this activity is before hive swarming.
As flowers and trees burst into flower, honey bees may
enjoy a period of abundant forage. With plenty of pollen available, the hive can accelerate
its comb production.
Temperatures need to exceed 91°F for a honey bee’s wax secretion glands to function.
Expect to witness festooning in the warmer months, but not in winter.
Prior to swarming part of the colony will exit the hive and congregate outside. It is common
to see bees form a lacework formation as they wait for clearance to head off in search of
a new home.
Festooned bees form a line by holding onto each other’s legs. It is only one layer deep
and usually between the hive’s frames. Honey bee bearding occurs when honey bees
gather in a multi-layered beard formation at the front of the hive on hot humid days.
Festooning is linked to comb production while bearding is commonly seen on hot days
to cool the hive’s inside.