Bee Fanning Behavior: A honey-soaked evening

7 May

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.

bee hive at night

The monster hive at night

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:
    1. create ventilation inside a busy hive
    2. evaporate water from nectar until it contains less than 18% water and can be safely stored forever as honey
    3. both of the above

What does fanning behavior look like?

John Pluta from Georgia captures the stance of a fanning bee on video.


5 Responses to “Bee Fanning Behavior: A honey-soaked evening”

  1. Jessie Brown May 7, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    That monster hive is going to be 20 feet tall soon!!! You better get a big ladder for harvest:-)

  2. mistress beek May 7, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Crazy, right? We’ve already split this hive once but maybe we’ll have to split again. Any recommendations?

  3. karcuri13 May 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    6 deeps! That is a crazy big hive.

  4. SteveP July 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Wow I just discovered you site. I kept bees about 15 years ago and just started this season. I’ve forgotten everything and your site is a load of information. Thanks!


  1. Utter Hive Destruction: Signs of a Dead Beehive « mistress beek - September 5, 2011

    […] months ago, this hive was booming. But when it exuberantly swarmed in July during one of the hottest and driest summers on record in […]

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