If you make your way to the second floor of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, you’ll find a one of our most dynamic exhibits: our real, live, honeybee hive! With glass walls and a special entrance & exit to the outside world just for bees, it’s easy to spend hours just watching as the bees go about their busy day.
Recently, you may have seen a crowd of honey bees gathering around their special entrance. There are two reasons they might do this.
The first is called “bearding”, because the cluster of bees on the outside makes it look like their hive has a beard! Bees do this to try and lower the temperature inside their hive. They even flap their wings to act like fans!
The second reason bees gather outside their hive is because they’re preparing to “swarm”. When the hive gets cramped, the queen bee lays some eggs that will grow into other queens. Because each hive can only have one queen, the old queen takes about half of the worker bees and flies away to find a new place to live, leaving her daughter as the new queen bee.
The group of bees that leaves is called a swarm. The new swarm gathers on the outside of the hive, making a giant mass of bees! No need to worry about getting stung; to make sure they don’t get hungry on the journey, swarming bees eat lots of honey. Their full bellies make them so happy, they rarely, if ever, sting during this process!
Twice this year, our bees have started to swarm. We had a lot of days where our window was covered in thousands of bees!
To make sure they found a good home, we took them to the Audobon Society, where our beekeeper split the hive in half. She took a new queen and some bees to a new home and we got the other half back with our current queen.
The second time this happened was last week. Now our hive has lots of space for new bees! Even with so many fewer bees to hide amongst, our queen bee is really hard to spot. If you see her, let us know!
Next time you’re at the Museum & Theatre, make sure to stop by the hive on the second floor! We’re sure you’ll agree it’s the bees’ knees.