Weird Warre hive behaviour

We have two Warres in our garden, neither of which appeared to have swarmed last year so both went into the winter choc full of stores & equally stuffed with bees.     In Sept/Oct last year we noticed unusual behaviour outside one – masses of bees milling about the step & up the sides appearing quite agitated & stressed and in many cases it appeared to be individual workers surrounded by up to a dozen others “roughing them up” the more we watched the more it looked like robbing so we put in the mouseguard, stopped the holes up leaving just 3 open, and fixed some stepped mesh across the front which apparently puts off the robbers but the “locals” can find their way in.   after a day or so this simmered down & all appeared normal.

However this winter, even on mild days when the other hive was flying strongly, this hive became quieter & quieter until some mild days you wouldnt see a single bee coming out.  Looking inside it still appeared full of bees.   This had been going on for weeks & weeks & seemed like they had just gone on strike!!  UNTILL last wednesday when they all came pouring out in a mass flyabout outside the entrance looking like someone had forcibly kept them in – their hum reminded me of that of a hive in the nectar flow, some bees were fanning on the step with nasonov glands showing and I could hear others fanning inside and smell honey!!.   I have watched them closely since then – they are bringing a bit of pollen in, clearing out dead bees & there is a lot of cap debris appearing but their behaviour is still odd – there always seems a lot of milling about on the step before taking off to forage, bees coming back dilly dally about outside before going in & bees flying out never seem to take a straight route.  This is sharp contrast to the other hive which seems relaxed and the bees purposeful, and their pollen baskets seem fuller.

Could this be a problem in the hive (failing/dead queen) or is it just that hives have different temperaments?.  This hive came from a tiny cast in a bait box in 2012, the other one from a huge prime swarm captured in 2011 from an existing hive.

Would appreciate any thoughts, thanks

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1 Response to Weird Warre hive behaviour

  1. johnmkubwa says:

    Bees do exhibit different behaviours, especially if the colonies are at different stages in their development. A large prime swarm may build up rapidly in year and occupy 4 or 5 boxes whereas a late cast might only occupy one and still survive winter. The colony will know its situation and behave accordingly. I have a small colony which, so far (22 Feb), has come through winter on two boxes; stores are limited and foraging activity is low – there is pollen being collected on warmer days.
    Another colony is heavy on 4 boxes with plenty of stores; bees forage energetically returning with much pollen so brood rearing is clearly underway.
    How many boxes are available to each hive? Is there space for expansion? I usually nadir in March to ensure plenty of space is available to an expanding colony.
    I would carry on ‘watching, waiting, living and learning’ – to quote Germaine Greer.

    JohnH, Stockbridge Hants

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