What’s a bee to do on unusually warm fall days?

I’ll start this post back a few days.  On Sat. the 10th, I want out in the morning to check on the bees and give them some sugar syrup.  I had started getting cooler here in NC, and so they weren’t out and about too much.  As I am feeding the bees using entrance feeders that are placed in the back of the hive (behind the follower board), I was able to add the syrup without really disturbing the bees.  The feeders are still only accessible to the bees by going through the hives, but with the follower board in place I don’t have to disturb the bees at all to add syrup.  This is good, because I wouldn’t want to open the hive and disturb bees that were clustering for warmth.  I went out in the morning, and I think the temperatures were in the upper 40’s (the low was 35 and the high 58).  Hive 1 had a few bees moving at the entrance, but hive 2 had almost none.   It was actually a little disconcerting to see so few bees.  Because of that, I decided to come back during the week when it was supposed to be warmer.  Before I left however, I made two changes.  First, I slid in the removable bottom (the whole hive has just been screened on the bottom till now).  Second, I reduced the entrances by swinging the reducers down into position.   Here is a picture from a few weeks ago to show how the entrances were.

Tho the left of the entrance slits you can see the “reducers”.  I just rotated those so that they cover the left side of the entrances.  You can see the result in some pictures coming up.

Yesterday, it was definitely warmer.  The high was 78 degrees and I went out at about 2pm, so it was probably mid 70’s at least.  The bees were definitely active (so they were still there).   They had emptied the syrup I had given them on Sat. so I gave them some more.   I also took some pictures of the hives with the somewhat reduced entrances and the bees being active.

I was glad to see the bees, but started to notice that they weren’t all being friendly.  Its not as evident in pictures, but some of those bees are fighting.  I watched them for a while, to try to get a feel for the extent of it.  There were bees coming and going, and only some were attacked.  It appears that there is some robbing or attempted robbing going on (both hive, but more on hive 2).  Its not the massive event with lots of carnage that I have heard some people have describe, but not a good thing in any case.  It has been cooler up until the last couple of days (highs in the 50’s, lows in the 30’s), and I can’t imaging there is much forage available.  Since it got warm all the sudden and the bees could become active, maybe they couldn’t find any peaceful work to do and resorted to trying to raid an pillage their neighbors.  In all the time watching, I did see one lone lady returning with a full load of pollen (orange in color).  I assume some of the others might have had nectar, but I can’t tell that by sight.  I’ll have to ask whether other beekeepers notice some robbing on warm days after the available forage is mostly gone.

I decided that I would reduce the entrances a bit more to try and help the defenders.  I don’t think that there will be much of a traffic problem this time of year even with the smallest entrance.  Here are some pictures after I adjusted the reducers.  You can still see some fighting.

Occasionally I would see a pair of wrestling bees fall to the ground in front of the hive.  They would usually continue to wrestle there, and there were some dead bees too.  There were only a couple in front of hive 1, but more at hive 2.  There weren’t too many, maybe 5-8 visible.  When I moved around the leave though, I found more (some looked like they might have been there a few days at least however). Even after diggin around a little, I think there were still only 20 or so.

I don’t think its a major problem right now, but I would rather not have it happening.  Besides making robber screens however , I am not sure what else I can do other than let them defend themselves.  In any case, the weather may take care of it anyway.  This morning was rainy and cold and the high temperature was significantly lower.  We are supposed to be back to highs in the low to mid 50’s with lows back to the 30’s.  Hopefully the weather will convince the raiding parties to just stay home.

The cooler weather is also bring out all the beautiful fall colors.  Here is a nice pretty area coming up to where I keep my hives.  It makes me wish I lived in the country instead of right inside Chapel Hill (to be honest however, I feel that way pretty much all times of the year).

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