At night, because the bees are fanning, my whole yard smells of honey.
It’s a monster hive, 6 deeps and 1 medium, and full of ripening honey. Despite our drought, my city bees have access to the well-watered trees of the neighborhood and the University of New Mexico and it’s clear they’re taking full advantage of their good fortune.
Why do bees fan?
Honey bees fan the hive for several reasons. Knowing what they’re up to depends on the location of their bums:
- Bums facing out with the tip exposed, the girls are typically sending a “homing signal” by revealing their Nasonov glands. This is done during swarming or orientation flights at a new hive. Here’s what Nasonov fanning looks like.
- Bums facing in or out with no tip exposed, the girls are fanning to:
- create ventilation inside a busy hive
- evaporate water from nectar until it contains less than 18% water and can be safely stored forever as honey
- both of the above
What does fanning behavior look like?
John Pluta from Georgia captures the stance of a fanning bee on video.