Thursday, August 20, 2009

Honey Bees Festoon

When honey bees build their comb, they work in teams. The teams of bees often festoon, or hang together to bridge open spaces in the hive. They are able to use their own bodies to bridge across areas by holding hands, of sorts, with other bees. The six legs of honey bees actually have pads and hooks. Each leg has a pair of hooks which they can use to hold onto another bee’s hooks. Using their bodies as a natural scaffolding arrangement, the bees build their nest out of beeswax which the young bees secrete from glands located on their lower abdomen. They take the secreted flakes of beeswax and make them into six sided cells using their mouth parts. Photographer and beekeeper Brandon Dill photographed these honey bees festooned across an opening in a bee hive. Click on the picture to see some real honey bee acrobatics. The hive opening resulted from my pulling out a frame of honey comb for inspection. Had I not returned the frame, the bees would have filled the area with a sheet of comb.

The honey bee uses its ability to hang together for a number of purposes. When bees swarm, they gather together in a mass of thousands of bees. As the swarm hangs onto a tree limb, they are festooned bee to bee by the hooks on the ends of their legs. Another time that bees festoon is when they hang out of the entrance of the hive in warm weather. Large numbers of bees can festoon outside of the hive to allow ventilation of the brood nest. You may see more of Brandon’s photographic work at