Bearding or Washboarding?

If you see bees hanging out on the front of your hive, they may be bearding – especially if the temperature outside is over 100 degrees. But check closely. Are they rocking back and forth? Maybe they are washboarding—a very mysterious bee activity!

From Katie Bohrer and Jeffery S. Pettis. USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Bldg. 476 BARC-E, Beltsville, MD 20705 :

  • Marked worker bees began washboarding when 13 days of age, with a peak in washboarding occurring when workers were 15-25 days of age.
  • Washboarding behavior increased from 8:00am to 2:00pm and remained elevated until 8:00pm and was even noted to continue past dark at 9:00pm.
  • Washboarding behavior appears to be age dependant with bees most likely to washboard between 15-25 days of age.
  • Washboarding increases during the day and peaks through the afternoon.
  • Workers may respond to rough texture and washboard more on those surfaces as we found an increase in the behavior from bees on glass, wood, and slate but further testing is needed to confirm this.  The function of this behavior remains to be elucidated.