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