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If your hive is new, then it is most likely that what you saw were some of the first orientation flights. What you saw are bees that have served as nurses and are now preparing to become foragers. To do so successfully, they need to have a good idea of where the hive is located by referencing the position of the sun and the surroundings. I think of them as being teenagers learning to drive a car; controlled chaos.

In my apiary, new bees orient in the mid to late afternoon; they hover outside of the hive, tracing figure eight patterns while facing the hive, and sometimes circle the hive a few times. Then, they return. In a new hive, there is a larger fraction of bees that simultaneously reach the stage at which this is done, and it seems sudden. Even in an established hive, orientation flights take place regularly as more nurse bees continue to graduate to their new role.
 

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I'm no expert but here's my two cents. I see this happen every once in a while with my hive. It worried me as well the first time I saw it. I think I figured it out after standing there and observing what was happening. I came to the conclusion it's caused by too many bee's coming back all at the same time while there are still some leaving making an air traffic jam. As I stood there and watched I'd see 3-4 land and go in while 4-5 other would abort their landing at the same time and 1-2 would leave at the same time. I thought sometimes it was because my entrance was too small. But it seems to happen at hives with larger openings too. :scratch:
 

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IMHO chemguy nailed it. I watched the video closely and there was no obvious fighting involved, so I doubt it is robbing. The bees overhead were in a ever increasing circling pattern, Leading me to believe it is an orientation flight. As Pete said house bees making the transition to field bee need to learn where the hive is. During peak production a queen can lay between 2 and 3 thousand eggs a day all will hatch at the same time, and all will become foragers at pretty much the same time. even 1000 bees circling the hive at the same time is a sight to behold. and sometime encourages some of the already field bees to join in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
thanks for all the replys it all went normal after 15 mins i had a feeling it was first flight for workers and you all seemed to confirm it there was no aggresion in the bees just a lot of them thanks
 

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My bees are usually pretty active in the hottest part of the day, and even more so when they young bees are orienting.. I have a video of my first orientation flight, and there were easily over 1,000 bees in the air. I was very confused at first, but I had read that it's orienting, and after about 30 minutes, they were almost all back inside.
 

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Mine do that every day about 4pm. They come out and fly around for about 15 minutes. Get a little exercise, some fresh air, use the bathroom, and then it's right back to work. Sounds like my job.
 

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Between 3 and 4 PM on most nice sunny days, my bees hold "happy hour", which matches the description above. What I'm seeing is orientation flights, most of the bees just going back and forth in front of the hive and admiring it.
 

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I observed the same behavior in my Top Bar a week or so ago, and then again today. It was all over in 15 minutes both time. I wondered what it was, and the answers to this post have helped me figure it out - orientation flights.
 

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I wondered what it was, and the answers to this post have helped me figure it out - orientation flights.
Someone described them as spirals and vertical figure eights...when I finally saw mine in a cloud over the hive, sure enough, they were spiraling up and then down, and repeating that. As you mentioned, it lasted about 15 minutes. Then there were a few stragglers still practicing their figure eights which was kind of amusing to think of them getting in some last minute practice.
I wonder if they go back in the hive after the first session, or do they fly off to start their new careers as foragers?
 
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