screened bottom board comb building
Hi there! I'm a first year beekeeper and I have two hives. I live in Orlando, FL but my hives are in Ocala, FL (about 80 miles north) in my grandmother's flower garden. Both of my hives have screened bottom boards to help with mites and because it's typically very hot here.
One hive has been very productive, they've drawn comb through two deep boxes and have requeened themselves and they're just doing their thing. The second hive is much smaller, they're very calm compared to the other, but they are drawing comb VERY slowly. There's a lot of larva every time I inspect, and the queen is confirmed to be inside the hive- but the numbers barely grow. I'm a good distance away so I inspect every 2-3 weeks, and they're growing at about half the rate of the other hive. Now here's where it gets tricky, and I'm begging for some advice.
This hive is expanding downward? Or at least trying to? For weeks and weeks there have been a couple thousand bees under the bottom board. At first I thought they were just bearding because if the heat and I thought it was strange because they're UNDER the hive, not hanging off the front or the sides, fully under it. Then I thought perhaps there was some honey dripping and they just went out for a snack? Seemed plausible. When I first discovered them down there there were two small chunks if comb on the ground beneath them and it seemed like they had tried to build comb down there but were unsuccessful, but they remained flat after that for a few weeks. I haven't been up there in about 8 days and my mother just arrived at the house and I asked her to take a look during the day and also to see if they're there at night time. She said there were twice as many bees under the hive than she had seen before, and there's a big lump in the middle. She sent me a picture at 11pm and they were still there, not as many, but most of them don't go inside for the night. In the picture she sent at night there is indeed a comb-shaped lump of bees and it looks like they may have gotten some comb to stick to the bottom board.
Every time I try to look up what they're doing it's just page after page of bearding information, and I'm struggling to find much about this behavior. I finally found one article about it but they didn't say what they did to rectify the situation? Right now they're not returning into the hive and the hive itself seems to be slowed massively by this behavior and I'm afraid I'll lose them in the winter.
So if anyone has any advice or has seen this type of thing before please let me know! Should I just let them do their thing? Is it too hot in the hive for them, should I get them into some shade? Should I try to force them back into the hive? The one article I did find said they just came right back out? Please, send help. The bees are being very weird.