Sharing Our Home With Bees

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

For almost twenty years we have shared our weekend cottage with bees. They live in the rubble fill of our masonry fireplace and, aside from the annual swarms where some poor things find their way inside, we have coexisted nicely. I run around with a glass and cardboard to help the lost ones back outside.

Our chimney flue and roof cricket were hit by a tree five weeks ago. The whole thing needs to be torn down because the firebox is damaged as well. It is currently tarped. About three weeks ago I was in the garden and heard a swarm about 2pm. It was our bees and the second swarm I am aware of this season. I thought the hive was splitting off. They exited the chimney and went to a nearby limb where they spent the night. The following afternoon there was a huge hum and the bees started going up into the sky...very high up and then headed west. There were no bees exiting or entering the hive for three days. Then, on day three, at around the same time of day, I heard the hum again and looked up. The sky above the house was black and over the next hours they all went in the chimney cricket again. Now, each day, they seem to be exiting the chimney at some point and swarming back in the afternoon. I thought it might be a different hive because hundreds of bees came down the chimney and usually the bees know how to get to and from their place.

So my questions are these...what's going on here? Why would the entire hive leave? Why did they return (or are these my bees)? Why are they leaving en mass every day or so, swarming around in the sky or gathering on tree limbs and then going back? Now that our fireplace is being torn down we will need to figure out what to do with them. My vegetable and flower gardens adjoin the house so they have had employment. We keep clean water in several locations nearby. They have been good tenants. Can you tell me why they are behaving like this?


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