The Poop Parade of Death

I walked outside my house today and saw an unusual number of dead bees in the snow. So…

I went around the corner to look at my beehives and found this.

That’s a lot of dead bees. And a lot of poop.

It was around 5pm and freezing when I took these photos.

A few hundred dead bees in the snow after an apparent en masse cleansing flight. (February 27th, 2021.)

I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to take a quick peek inside the hive. I don’t think I need to, but I’m going to because I’m curious and this is an educational blog, so why not?

A few hundred dead bees in the snow after an apparent en masse cleansing flight. (February 27th, 2021.)

I took whiff of the hive entrances and they didn’t stink of poop. I didn’t see any signs of mice or shrews getting into the hive, both of which can suddenly drive the bees out of their hive on a cold day like this.

I may have given this colony a pollen patty a couple weeks ago. If that’s the case and they were eating the patty, they may have filled their guts with too many solids to hold it in any longer (which means I probably shouldn’t have given them a pollen patty). Or it may have been the colony’s first big cleansing flight of the year. If you were holding in it for a few months, you’d probably burst from the relief and fall into the snow too.

In any case, I might take a look later tonight with my thermal imaging camera to see if that shows me anything unusual. If I don’t find anything funky tomorrow, this will be the end of this tale and we can chalk it up to one seriously massive cleansing flight. Though it’s not exactly what I would call clean.

Continue here: A Healthy Hive Smells Good.

5 thoughts on “The Poop Parade of Death

  1. Curious to hear what you find. I had something very similar happen earlier this week– was excited to see the bees flying (hooray they’ve survived!) and then shocked by the amount of dead bees all over the yard. It wasn’t over 50 degrees, so wondering if they just ventured out too soon. :(

  2. 50°F / 10°C would be pretty warm for my bees. I’m not sure it would freeze them to death immediately. But maybe it would. My bees definitely fly and even forage at colder temperatures than the textbooks say they should. For a lot of bees, it seems they get out and the relief is so great once they “cleanse” themselves, they immediately fall to the ground and basically die.

    I’m uploading a video now that shows the results of my quick inspection of this hive. It should be up in about 30 minutes or less.

  3. Great video and topic Phillip! I think the smell of hives is an often overlooked indicator of bee health. Death and decay never smells as nice as a hive full of ripening honey on a late August evening. Although I’m lucky never to have had the misfortune yet to experience it, I understand from my mentors preaching’s ;) that American foulbrood smells just like rotting fish. During my evening walk-arounds, I often loiter in the bee yard taking in the subtle smells. It’s a great habit to get into; good for you, good for your bees.

  4. It’s a good point. I’m glad this guy online reminded of it. I take in smells around the hive all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever consciously used it as a method for gauging the health of the colony. The hive, or the bees in the hive, produce certain smells at certain times of the year. Things that I smell in the hive: new wax, honey being cured, alarm pheromone, probably other pheromones too, stinky odours, and so on. It’s not a bad habit to get into, taking a whiff around the entrances and every time I open the hive.

  5. The title of this post is brilliant. But also I am sad for your pooped out bees. Not easy being a bee in the snow.

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