Monday, July 19, 2010

My bees doing their washboarding thing

I happened to notice one of my honeybee hives this afternoon having a 'washboard day'...really going to town on it. Washboarding is a bee behavior that is not entirely understood yet. You can see the bees move forward and back rhythmically, shuffling their front feet around on the surface of the hive, usually near the entrance. Perhaps they are merely cleaning the area, or perhaps they are applying some scent or substance and polishing it onto the surface.
I love to watch them do this.


  1. I think it is interesting that one hive the bees are hanging outside and the other hive they are not. It shows how different each hive can be. Are all those bees outside guarding?

  2. I found that H. Storch's in his classic book "At the Hive Entrance" writes:

    To what does one attribute the "smoothing" movements that certain of the bees make before the hive entrance?

    To find the cause of these movements, which are particularly evident when the pollen harvest is plentiful, I used a magnifying glass to observe bees busy "smoothing", without disturbing them. Only in a few cases did they continue their movements. Thanks to the magnifying glass I could ascertain that small pollen particles, invisible to the naked eye, remained atta ched to the bees hair. These were certainly not young bees but foragers.
    The colony I was watching was harvesting an unusually large amount of pollen. Whilst in other colonies I saw few or no bees "smoothing", in this one it was frequent especially when the pollen was plentiful. Finally, I concluded that the bees made these movements, which sometimes continued a long time, to rid themselves of these minute pollen grains, which slide into the gap between the head and the thorax, and
    can be particularly uncomfortable and annoying.

    Although these observations are many years old I have not published them in previous editions for I doubted the exactitude of my conclusions. Recently I learnt that Dr. Karl Freudenstein had arrived at the same conclusions as myself and all my doubts have thus been removed.

  3. Behjolino,
    Thank you for the interesting idea. I'm not sure what to think, since i observe the foot shuffling that seems to involve something purposeful about the front feet smoothing back and forth on the hive surface, not seeming to involve the 'neck' or head.
    i will watch more closely.

    I like your blog. I speak Spanish a little, but not Italian...though i seem to be able to understand some of what you write because of the Latin roots of words.
    your beehives are nice.