I looked at 8 hives today, of the 8 about half were flying. Is there anything to be read into this observation? Such has perhaps a more productive strain of bee, starving and had to get out and look for something to eat or simply that some hives just took the day off. This I was wondering is that I am planning to raise some queens from some of my own stock and I want to use the best of what I have. Any input will be appreciated.
Are there bees in the other half? I usually figure if there aren't bees flying from one hive there's a good chance it's dead or awfully weak.
I have a different view...
Based on my observations of my four hives...
One hive is running very low on supplies.. The other three are doing much better.
I noticed the colony with low stores were much much active then the other three...
The other three were active but didn't seem as pressed to provide for the hive.
The bees in my yard that fly first in cooler weather do not seem to do so because of lack of stores. I believe that it is genitics that allows it to happen. It's generally the weaker ones that stay in and the big healthy clusters that get out first.
A big cluster of warm bees are more likely to venture out than a cold one. Aren't you more willing to go outside if you are warm than if you are cold? Once I have warmed up by the fire I am much more willing to go back out.
If a cold bee will starve inches from stores, why would you think that they would go out into the cold where there is little possibility to find anything?
I have noticed Russians and NWC flying at 40F, Buckfasts flying at 45F, and Itialians at 50F. And I have two mutts in gums that don't want to break cluster unless it's 60+F.
Between my three NWC hives in my back yard, the weakest (amallest sized cluster) is the last to fly.
Bingo, Bill. Strong hives put bees out first. This is why early spring pollination contracts stipulate that the hives should be a certain strength. A strong hive can afford the bees, instead of all of them keeping brood warm, they are free to leave and forage in colder/wetter conditions. That said, with all hives healthy, with bee populations the only factor. Poor queens not building brood fast enough, or desease would certainly alter these factors.
Another factor is the positioning of individual hives. The temperature sometimes only reaches a high through the day for a short period of time. Those hives facing the sun at this critical time will fly, and one facing away from the sun, won't put bees out.