This year the colony I had in my home made Dartington style hive dwindled to about 100 bees over winter. The queen was only laying a tiny patch of eggs on both sides of one frame as they couldn't keep the required temperatures warm enough, so I moved them out of the Dartington and I put them into a small 4 frame nuc and pretty much thought they wouldn't last long. Sods law although the colony is still small it is growing and although a little feisty if opened, they have survived partly I hope by the 1:1 feed and pollen pattie I've given them. The other hive is the swarm I got a few weeks ago with sadly a drone laying queen.
Today I went to check on these hives to decide if I should remove the drone laying queen then combine them a day or so later.
I suited up and walked towards the two hives and thought wow thats a loud buzzing I can hear. As I looked at the entrances of the two hives there was no more than 5-10 bees flying about outside them both, it suddenly dawned on me the noise was coming from the Dartington hive as I looked across towards it trying to peer through the long grass where I abandoned it 20 feet away from the other hives to see there was 30+ bees flying around the entrance.
My first thought was they were drawn to the empty combs and the smell looking for stores to rob until I got close enough to see the entrance and about 20 more bees were walking around on the front of the hive. I removed the roof and tried to gently prized up the crown board with my hive tool only to find it seemed unusually heavy, so I put the smoker down and using both hands lifted one side of the crown board up and peered under it to see a large natural comb about 10" wide and 12" deep and the whole entrance end of the hive was full of bees covering the 3 empty frames I left in there and covering the walls, crown board and the natural comb they have built since they moved in. I carefully smoked the bees off the crown board and removed the natural comb and lent it against the side wall so they could access the stores they put in it still and quickly grabbed three more 14x12 frames with foundation I had with me so they have 6 frames.
The Dartington style hive in its old location on the right.