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Bee-haviour: Three Types of Fanning

Updated: Apr 30

What's all the buzz about? When a bee is beating its wings without actually going anywhere, it's called fanning. They do this for several different reasons and, by carefully observing their body position, you can tell exactly what they're fanning about!

Type 1: Circulation Fanning

One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to go out in the late evening (just as the sun sets) and watch the bees fanning on the entrance to their hive. They do this after a hot day during the honey flow to help circulate air and dry out the honey.

Something amazing I have noticed since we have both top and bottom hive entrances is that the bees will often coordinate their efforts, with bees at one entrance fanning air into the hive and bees at the other entrance fanning air out!

Type 2: Nasonov Fanning

The Nasonov gland excretes the 'come hither' scent used by bees to call to one another in a variety of situations. This pheromone, in very high doses, smells like lemongrass. This is why lemongrass is often used in swarm traps.

Bees use this type of fanning to call their foraging hive mates back to the hive or to help a queen find her way back from her mating flight. They also use it at the flower to help attract other foragers to the right place, and swarms use it to gather at a resting place and then eventually at their new nest.

You are most likely to see Nasonov fanning at the hive after an inspection, especially if you have been disruptive by shaking bees or moving frames around as they all try to find one another again.

Type 3: Alarm Fanning

Bees also fan to spread the alarm pheromone (this one smells like bananas in high concentrations!). You're most likely to see this when you first remove the lid of your hive, but the bees usually settle back in after a minute or two.

Bees fan to recruit other bees to their cause. Occassionally, you will see this defensive alarm posture without any fanning. They're still mad, but they aren't trying to turn all of their friends against you....yet.

Full disclosure: 99% of the time, I use my own photos and videos in all of my content. This is part of the 1% that I have no quality photo or video of because I keep getting flinch when a bunch of bees are brandishing their stingers. Next year I'll get my own photo. In the meantime, here's an example from the Google machine.

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