Bees have a sudden fondness for the ground
I'm in my first year keeping bees here in SE PA, and until pretty recently it was very unusual for any of my bees to venture down low to the ground or around the back side of the hive, which is on an elevated stand. This was nice, because it made inspecting the hive very easy! Starting a few weeks ago I started seeing a fair number of them circling around back there and getting more aggressive, which I decided was probably a sign that we were going into a dearth and possibly some stress from a worsening, but small, hive beetle issue I noticed.
I added a top feeder to help with the former and a screened bottom board for the latter, and both seem to be working – they're sucking down syrup like there's no tomorrow, and the trap quickly took care of most of the beetles. The aggression and circling has stopped, but I've noticed that I'm seeing a lot of bees down at ground level particularly around the back of the hive, which makes me a little nervous when I pop out for quick trips to refill the feeder or check the trap or just see how they're doing, particularly since I'm usually rocking my pandemic dress code of tee shirt, gym shorts, and sandals.
There's nothing that seems like it should be attractive on the ground at this point, it's a combination of bare dirt and some vinca that are months past flowering. They don't seem bothered or distressed, just kind of hanging out down there just crawling around on the ground or leaves either individually or in pairs and eventually buzzing away. I thought perhaps I'd accidentally dripped a trail of syrup when I was first setting up the feeder but I definitely haven't since, and we've had lots of rain in the intervening weeks that I expect would have washed it all away. Anyone have any idea what they're getting up to down there?
TL;DR – Bees on the ground, where there were no bees before – what up with that?