What can be seen at the hive entrance

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What can be seen at the hive entrance

When the temperature allows, we can see males or drones and workers at the entrance of a hive. Drones

The drones go out only during the warm hours of the day. They are noisy and fly aimlessly and heavily though carrying nothing, neither nectar nor pollen.

Workers

If the temperature is above 8 C, we see workers always busy at the hive entrance, but doing different things. Some are guarding or fanning for ventilation, others are cleaning or foraging.

Guards

The guards come and go at the entrance of the hive. They scrutinise the bees coming in from outside and only let them enter after they have been recognised, doubtless by their odour. They chase

away bees, however similar, coming from another hive to take their honey. They also chase away wasps, hornets and hawk moths which sometimes try to get into the hive.

Fanners

Towards evening on warm days, above all if there has been nectar brought in, beside the guards, the fanners stand firm with their heads pointing towards the entrance, erect on their legs. Their wings move rapidly producing a sound that one can hear at quite some distance. Their task is to ventilate the hive to lower the temperature and to increase the evaporation of the water contained in the newly gathered nectar.

Cleaners

In the morning, especially in spring, bees are seen leaving the hive carrying wax debris and dead bees far away. These are the cleaners.

Foragers

Finally we see the foragers emerging from the hive. They take to the air rapidly, without hesitation, in a definite direction, remembering flowers last visited. They return ponderously and sometimes fall in the grass surrounding the hive because they are laden with nectar. Others return carrying on their hind legs two balls of pollen, yellow or various other colours, that they have gathered from the stamens of flowers.

Orientation

On warm days, especially after several days of rain, one often sees bees flying in ever increasing circles round the hive. These are not foragers but young bees carrying out a reconnaissance of their hive and its position. This exercise is called orientation.

In front: a guard bee examining another bee. Near the entrance: ventilator bees fanning the hive.

Bees making a beard

Beard

When it is very hot, the bees, lacking space in the hive to spread themselves out, pour out of the hive in a group in front of the entrance and even go under the hive, attached to each other by their legs. We say then that the bees make a beard. They form beards too when they are preparing to swarm.

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