It only struck me during this inspection how much information I can deduce, just by observing the hive entrance. The activity at the entrance of a hive speaks a thousand words about its health and population and betrays weaknesses and threats.
It is extremely difficult for me to explain in words the differences between entrance environments but I will give it a go in describing Wednesday’s vibe at my hive’s entrance:
The first alarm bell rang when no bee rushed to assess my intention as I was approaching the hive. The second hint was the unusually high activity in the air, just by the entrance. The colony’s population does not warrant such high activity; I know that there are simply not enough bees to be causing so much commotion.
Instead, there was a large number of bees flying around, not particularly going in or out, but more like crash landing on the hive and then being thrown off it by other bees. It was a battleground. Brutal. The enemy (robber bees) significantly outnumbered the guards and they relentlessly kept teasing and pushing, trying to get into the hive. Everytime a bee got knocked off, another would land just behind the guard. Everytime a foraging bee arrived with nectar and pollen, it had to dodge the commotion by the entrance trying to find sanctuary in her home.
I tried following a single bee to understand which was robbing and which was being robbed, but it was all happening too quickly. Bees were flying everywhere, some crashing to the ground, some hovering by the entrance, others going in with pollen, some coming out seemingly with nothing. And the whole while, no one paid any attention to me, the battle was so intense and so consuming, that no bee seemed aware of my presence. On top of this, there wasn’t much I could do, it was my bees against the others. If we were lucky, my bees would have honey left by the end of the night. If we were unlucky, they would be robbed clean of everything they have collected.
This went on during the whole 30 minutes I spent there. I am sure though that it continued right through to the last minute of warmth and daylight or until all honey was taken.
Inspection Results: I have now reduced my in-depth inspections to once every two weeks. This is to give the bees the best chances in working towards their goal without me as a disctraction. Hence, this inspection only highlighted robbing and agitation. The varroa board was also checked and showed no varroa mites (yay!!)