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Strange behaviour - bees clustering outside hive over night


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Hi all

I have 3 home hives. All are coming out of winter well, with one going gangbusters.  I had back fusion surgery 5 weeks ago so checked all the hives then and had to put a super on the strongest hive as at the time, I didn't think it would go 6 weeks without the extra space.

 

The interesting thing with this hive is that there is a cluster of bees always outside the hive, sitting on the timber support frame for the hive base.  This has been going on for a month now.  Initially I thought it was just old tired bees that had been ejected from the hive as they are typically very lethargic.  However, two days ago they were piled 5-6 deep, and when I pushed a stick through them (I'm not allowed to bend down so couldn't use my finger) they were all roped up like a swarm, and when I managed to move them enough, I swear a queen popped out of the scrum.  I got her onto the end of the stick and placed her at the entrance of the hive and she walked in. 

Today I decided to take an early walk and see if these bees that I see during the day stay out over night, and yes, they do.  Single layer of bees, all hankered down braving the elements.

 

What's going on here?

The hive is not overcrowded, they have 4 boxes for pete's sake ..........

There is no significant number of dead bees laying around.

And this has been going on for a month??

 

Other two hives are behaving as normal, just less active during the day.

 

2019-09-16 06.35.36.jpg

2019-09-16 06.35.15.jpg

Edited by Trevor Gillbanks
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I had the same thing happen with my HD base and I posted earlier how to fix it . The gaps between plastic widen , the bees fall out and can not work out the orange dial because they did not leave

Yup, clearly too small of an entrance.   Neville you may have run your hive this way for the last couple of years, and sure, the bees didn't die. But that doesn't mean that all was optimal.

@Neville, If you’re saying your hive is going gangbusters, then your entrance is too small. You’re going to have to get someone to lift the bottom box up and forward over that lug to allow the bees to

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7 minutes ago, Neville said:

But this has been going on for a month now

They could have gone out the bottom down the slots and do not know how to get back up and through the dial .

I would move the hive into summer position on the base .

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@Neville, If you’re saying your hive is going gangbusters, then your entrance is too small. You’re going to have to get someone to lift the bottom box up and forward over that lug to allow the bees to come and go more freely at volume 

Edited by M4tt
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The clustering is a result of a tiny entrance for a big hive.

 

Even though you have 4 boxes on the hive, if there is no nectar flow the bees will not draw comb, or even occupy some of the available space, but will instead get very crowded in the brood area. This is in preperation for when the nectar flow starts, at which time the bees will swarm, it's all part of their normal behaviour. However the tiny entrance is hindering their coming and going and causing some to be stuck outside.

 

As to the queen being outside, this is a surprisingly common trap for users of ventilated bottom boards, if the queen is inadvertently dropped outside by the beekeeper she cannot find her way back in, always knocking on the wrong door.

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30 minutes ago, kaihoka said:

I had the same thing happen with my HD base and I posted earlier how to fix it .

The gaps between plastic widen , the bees fall out and can not work out the orange dial because they did not leave the hive that way .

The hive needs to lifted over the lugs and the bees given an entrance they can make sense of .

And that is why I like hobbyists. They have the time to look and  comprehend what's going on. I have been beekeeping for over 50 years and have never seen anything quite like in that photo and personally could not give a rational explanation. When bees cluster normally out the front of the hive because they are too full, too hot et cetera they will cluster up the front of the hive or if there is a crack in the floorboard sometimes hang underneath but always with direct access to the hive not separated like you have.Karaka Poisoning looks a little bit like what you're bees are doing but they are generally a bit further away from the entrance and in many small bunches.

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Got a mate coming over Thursday to do the heavy lifting.  Will look to do some splits as there are heap of drones around and this will pre-empt any swarming.

One of the other hives has picked up its busyness in the last couple of days and is showing similar behaviour this morning at 7:00am with bees struggling to get back into the entrance and forming a scrum on the ground.   I might look at putting some landing boards in...??  I have never used the summer settings on the HD bases, always just left the gate wide open summer or winter.

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@Neville. Keep in mind that if you did find that hives Queen in the lower cluster, and sent her back into the box, that she may have been out of the hive for long enough to be considered an intruder. You could have all sorts of interesting things happening in that colony.

Good luck with the recovery

 

Edited by Mummzie
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1 minute ago, Mummzie said:

@Neville. Keep in mind that if you did find that hives Queen in the lower cluster, and sent her back into the box, that she may have been out of the hive for long enough to be considered an intruder. Your box could have all sorts of interesting things happening in that colony.

Good luck with the recovery

 

If it was in deed a queen that I put back into the hive, she would have only been out for a matter of hours.  When I saw her, it was the first time I had seen the out of hive bees in a true cluster (ie more than 1 bee deep).  The rest of the time they are only single layer, and very stationary.

Will be interesting to see what's inside the hive that's for sure, especially for two inexperienced hobby bee wranglers.

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Yup, clearly too small of an entrance.

 

Neville you may have run your hive this way for the last couple of years, and sure, the bees didn't die. But that doesn't mean that all was optimal.

 

The unseen cost is you do not know what you never had. Had a big enough entrance been given to allow the bees to work unrestricted, you may have got a much bigger honey crop.

And the bees would have been happier and the hive functioning better generally. The normal argument people give for having tiny entrances is that they saw a beehive in a tree with a tiny entrance. However bees in the wild live where they have to. If they are forced to take a place with a tiny entrance, they will spend their energy reproducing (swarming), rather than making a honey surplus, no beekeeper will come and take any honey from them.

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