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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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I think the best way to learn to judge a hive by the entrance is to do this mental exercise:

1) think about the time of year and what the bees must be up to
2) look at the traffic. See if it seems to be organized and purposeful or random. If they have pollen. And what the traffic rate is.
4) look at the bees hanging on the hive (if any)
5) speculate on what you think you will find when you open the hive
6) compare your assumptions to your findings.

If you do the exercise every time you open a hive, you'd be surprised how quickly you'll get good at it.
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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54,199 Posts
>1) We are in a dearth but other hives are flying more. I suppose fewer brood because of dearth and less need so queen backed off laying? Less activity because less need to bring nectar in.

A reasonable expectation. The sensitivity to dearths and brood breaks is very different from colony to colony.

> 2) Traffic is definitely not as organized as prior periods of the year. I don't see much pollen. I'd say one bee every 2-3 seconds on average. Sometimes in waves sometimes big gaps between.

You probably won't have a total lack of pollen until a few weeks after the first hard freeze, but there may be less right now.

> 4) [what happened to 3. ] No bees hanging on. This has a screened bottom board, wide open lower entrance, vent in the top cover. Other hives have many more ladies on the front porch and frequent bearding and they also have SBBs.

Bearding is dependent on several factors. Temperature. Crowding. Total population. Nothing to do...
 
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