Have you ever heard of bee washboarding? Festooning? Bearding? These are lesser known behaviors, and we thought we'd take a look at them all at one time.
When a considerable number of bees in a beehive start acting as if they are scrubbing, near the hive entrance, this is referred to as bee washboarding. Only the worker bees participate in this activity. It’s a sort of a bee trance-dance, where they rock back and forth with consistency. While they rock, they scrape the surface of the hive ‘patio’ with their mandibles. It appears to be for cleaning, but nobody really knows what they are doing. They have kept it a mystery all these years.
Storch’s book, At the Hive Entrance, states that washboarding is more common in colonies where large quantities of pollen were harvested. Some people speculate that the bees are scraping and polishing their hive.
This unrelated 4:52-minute video by Inside the Hive TV shows some incredible washboarding footage, and speculates about the washboarding mystery:
This behavior is also mysterious but we know that it is tied in with comb building and wax production. The bees create a lattice work or lacework, where bees hang together leg-to-leg. They hang down between the honeycomb frames like trapeze artists.
Since the precise distance between honeycombs is very important to honeybees, many experts believe this is a measuring method. Others think this is the way bees build scaffolding.
When bees cluster together and curve down looking like a pouch cluster, they are either preparing to swarm or they are too hot and trying to escape the internal temperature of the hive.
In recent years researchers have decoded and solved many mysteries surrounding Apis mellifera, the beloved honeybee, but as we can see there are still some mysteries about the world's favorite insect.