Yesterday, shortly after I posted “Bearding or swarming?” and asked for your opinion, Joan wrote back with this photo:
I went out to the bee yard Sunday morning at 0600 and those bees were still in the bearding position. I thought then that they must be robbers/visitors. Frantically I tried searching online what to do. I just didn’t believe that I had that many bees. Mid afternoon, checking them for the billionth time, they had swarmed to the same exact tree and limb that my May swarm did.
Now I was really upset, still trying to locate some help/advice whereupon I went back out and they were gone. I would say they hung out two hours on that limb. So I suited up and prepared my smoker as there were still lots of bees flying. Sure enough there were still lots of bees in the hive.
After considering all the comments and seeing the photos, my opinion is that the swarm was not hers. I think the swarm was attracted to the scent of her hive and landed there. Then, after reconsidering, it regrouped in the nearby tree before finding a permanent home.
I agree with those who said the hive didn’t seem big enough for all those bees, especially since the top box was just a feeder housing. Plus, Joan says the original hive is still quite full. Yes, I could be wrong, and those who point out that overcrowding could cause a late summer swarm also have a good point.
At any rate, it is an interesting case. There is no way that swarm is going to survive a Pennsylvania winter at this late stage unless they end up in a hive that already is full of stores. Maybe that is what they were thinking when they descended on Joan’s hive.