What a rollercoaster of a day - I have no idea what's going on but I suspect it isn't good...
We've got two hives in the apiary, A and L, and it is L that we've been doing the Bailey Comb exchange with.
It's been over three weeks since the QE went in, the new brood box is nicely full of brood and stores and a week or so ago I put a super above another QE on to give them room to expand the stores. They haven't done a huge amount to the super yet but I wasn't expecting much.
Today my assistant was available to help, so we lifted off the new super/brood, removed the old brood and eke, and put the new super/brood back onto the base. So far, so good.
We then opened the old brood box, hoping for it to be empty. There was no brood (yay!) but still a fair amount of honey/nectar/pollen stores. We shook the bees from the old brood frames into the new super and put the old frames to one side. I think this is where it started to go wrong. By the time we'd shaken all the frames off, replaced the crown board and roof the old frames had attracted a lot of attention.
We moved the old frames about 50m away, hoping that the bees would clear out the stores. A large number of bees did indeed start 'harvesting' (robbing). There were bees fighting - I presume bees from Hive L fighting with bees from Hive A? I went back to the apiary and Hive L seemed placid - there were a few bees trying to get in the 'top entrance' that no longer existed, but all was calm. Hive A however was a frenzy - was it being robbed? I popped an entrance excluder in which seemed to help a bit. We then shook off the old frames again and put them in sealed boxes in the garage, so have removed the 'open feeding'. I've now retreated for a cup of tea!
What is confusing me is why is it Hive A that seems to be being robbed? Theories so far:
a) Hive A is much more active as there was suddenly free forage/open feeding nearby and they all nipped out to take advantage. It isn't being robbed, just looks busy.
b) Hive A's bees picked up some of Hive L's pheromone from the honey/comb and when they've gone back to Hive A the guard bees are not letting them back in. So that they're fighting themselves. This might diminish their numbers a bit but stores should remain intact.
c) Hive L's bees got grumpy when we shook them off of the old brood frames and have gone on the rampage.
Any ideas or comments folks? I know I've probably messed up here....