Honey bees festooning.

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.
  What Is Festooning?

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.

  Why Do Honey Bees Festoon?

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 construction easier.

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.

  When Do Bees Festoon?
Honey bees festooning.

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.

  Ample Foraging Supplies

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.

  Warm Weather

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.

  Before Swarming

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.

  What's The Difference Between Festooning And Bearding?

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.

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