What Are Festooning Bees? Why Do They Do it?

Bees are an integral part of our ecosystem, playing a vital role in the pollination of flowers and plants, which in turn helps to produce food for animals and humans.

What Are Festooning Bees Why Do They Do it

Without bees, our food sources would be much more limited, and the biodiversity of our planet would be significantly reduced. 

In addition, bees are known for their diligent work ethic and intricate hive structures, but have you ever heard of festooning bees?

These fascinating insects engage in a behavior called festooning, which involves linking together and hanging from the ceiling of their hive in a chain-like formation.

But why do they do this? The purpose of festooning has long been debated among beekeepers and scientists alike. 

In this article, we will explore the various theories behind this behavior and its significance in the construction and maintenance of beehives.

From measuring space to producing wax, festooning plays a crucial role in the lives of these busy insects. So let’s dive into the world of festooning bees and discover what makes them so unique.

What Is It?

Festooning is a behavior exhibited by bees, where they link together and hang from the ceiling of their hive to create a sort of chain. 

The bees work together to create a connection between frames they are engaged with. Festooning can develop into a deep and wide formation as the bees continue to work. 

Why They Do It

Why Bees festoon is still not fully understood, but there are a plethora of ideas to consider.

Some believe that bees that are festooning are thought to be helpful for the colony to figure out the distances between the frames when they are making combs.

Another theory suggests that the bees connecting together to make a bridge provides a type of “scaffolding” to help stabilize the construction. Festooning can also aid in producing wax and providing support for the hive structure. 

Despite ongoing debates among beekeepers and scientists, festooning showcases the remarkable teamwork and collaboration that exists within bee colonies.

It’s just another example of how these incredible insects work together to achieve their goals and ensure the survival of their colony.

Disagreement on The Purpose Of Festooning

As we’ve mentioned, despite the fascinating behavior of festooning among bees, scientists have yet to fully understand its purpose.

German bee biologist Jürgen Tautz admits that the reason behind making the living chain by bees during comb construction is a mystery. 

While it is believed that festooning helps with distance calculation, scaffolding, wax production, and hive support, there is still no consensus on its precise function.

Further research is needed to shed light on this intriguing behavior among these remarkable insects, as well as an collective agreement about what festooning occurs. 

Measuring Space With Festoons

Bees are very particular about where they build comb, and will only construct it in spaces larger than 3/8 of an inch, known as bee space. Festooning may be one method used by bees to measure these distances.

However, it’s important to note that bees can build comb without festooning, so it’s unclear if this behavior is strictly necessary for construction purposes. 

Festooning For Wax Production

Bees produce wax from special glands in their abdomen, and they need a hive temperature of 91 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 36 °C) to do so.

What Are Festooning Bees Why Do They Do it (1)

Bees festooning generates heat, which warms their space and helps them make wax for comb building.

Challengers of this theory suggest that bees produce more heat when they move on top of or against each other, and no one has seen bees actually excreting wax in a festoon.

Seasons And Factors For Building Festoons

Several factors influence the timing and frequency of festoon building in bees.

These include temperature, humidity, and the breeding season. Understanding these factors can help beekeepers optimize their management practices for better colony productivity and health.

It is thought by some bee enthusiasts that festooning takes place during the warmer seasons because it requires high temperatures to stimulate wax secretion.

A temperature of about 32 °C (89.6 °F) is ideal for young broods and larvae, which is why the timing of festooning coincides with the breeding season.

Another essential factor that influences festoon building is humidity. Bees require an optimum level of humidity to prevent their wax from cracking or becoming too brittle.

Therefore, they carefully regulate humidity levels within the hive by clustering together and fanning their wings to evaporate moisture.

Festooning Vs Washboarding?

Honey bees are known for their unique behaviors, including washboarding and festooning. While these two activities may seem similar, there are some distinct differences between them.

Honey bees often engage in a behavior called “washboarding” where they stand up on their 2nd and 3rd legs and rhythmically rock back and forth. It is believed that this behavior is used to clean the inside of the hive, getting rid of any dirt or debris that has built up.

Both washboarding and festooning are fascinating behaviors that demonstrate the complex social dynamics at work within a colony of honey bees.

By understanding these behaviors, we can gain insight into how these amazing insects live and work together in harmony.

Bearding Vs Festooning 

While festooning and bearding may seem similar, they are actually two distinct behaviors exhibited by honey bees.

As we know, festooning involves a line of bees clinging onto each other’s legs and occurs between the hive’s frames. This behavior is linked to comb production and support while working.

On hot, humid days, honey bees may gather in a multi-layered “beard” formation at the entrance of the hive. This behavior is known as “bearding,” and it is used to cool the interior of the hive.

The main difference between festooning and bearding lies in their purpose. While festooning is related to building comb and working together (we think) bearding is primarily for temperature regulation.

Both behaviors demonstrate the remarkable social dynamics at work within a colony of honey bees, highlighting their incredible ability to adapt and survive in different conditions.


In conclusion, festooning bees are a fascinating and important part of bee society. They collect resin and wax to build the honeycomb, and their behavior helps to keep the hive warm and protect it from predators. 

They also serve as a way for the bee colony to communicate with each other, helping to ensure the colony’s success. Festooning bees are an important part of the bee world, and they play an essential role in honeybee health and survival.

Thomas Callaghan
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