SHORT VERSION: I was concerned when I saw a medium honey super suddenly crowded with bees. It turns that’s nothing to worry about.
LONG VERSION: I have one colony this year that isn’t in sad shape and might make some honey that I can eventually steal. The average high temperature for July where I live was 15°C (59°F), and that’s mostly with rain and fog. Honey bees that can make honey under such conditions are miracles workers. Yet I noticed bees in this one hive showing up in the honey super about a week ago and then today, just now, I found this above the honey super:
That’s a view of the bees through a screen at the bottom of an empty moisture quilt, essentially a screened inner cover and ventilation rim. Anyway, the bees are crowded up over the top bars in the honey super, pushing themselves into the screen of the empty moisture quilt. That’s a full blown cluster of bees, not just a few hundred workers showing interest in a honey super.
My guess — my hope — is that several frames of brood emerged over the past couple days and they’ve been stuck in the hive because of the bad weather — and they had nowhere to go but up. I really hope that’s all it is. I plan to add another deep to the hive tomorrow to make room for all the new bees and give the queen more laying space.
What I hope it isn’t is the colony getting ready to swarm. I haven’t been able to do a full inspection in about three weeks because the weather has been so cold and damp. Swarm cells could have easily developed in those three weeks, and with this weird weather, it wouldn’t surprise me if the swarming season got pushed back into August. If so, all those bees up there could be bees gorging themselves on honey in preparation for swarming.
So tomorrow when I add another deep to the hive, I’ll check for swarms cells too.
UPDATE (the next morning): Never having seen the bees crowd into a honey super like that before, I was concerned. Now that I’ve seen it, I know it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Here’s a photo I took around 9am this morning:
My first thought seems to have been correct. A few thousand baby bees looking for their first foray into the world couldn’t get outside because it was cold and wet, so they went up into the honey super instead, or some other bees got out of their way and went up. I observed many orientation flights that next morning. I added a third deep to hive and pulled up some brood, but I’ll post photos of that whole procedure later.
I’ll relax if I see the bees suddenly crowding into a honey super again. Now I know. Experience means everything.