Warmer November & Less Dead Bees

I was looking over some of the posts that I’ve made during the month of December as a reminder to myself of what to expect for the next month. I came across a post from last December where I describe noticing dead bees on the bottom boards of some of my hives.

The first scraping of dead bees from the bottom of the hive. (Dec. 12, 2015.)

Scraping out a fairly large clump of dead bees around this time last year. (Dec. 12, 2015.)

Then I went outside today in the rain to take a quick look at my beehives and could hardly see any dead bees on the bottom boards. So… what’s up with that? November 2016, this year, was much warmer than last November. Does that have anything to do with it?

The bees in most of my hives at this time last year, when it was colder, were clustered well below the top bars and there were a fair number of dead bees on the bottom boards.

This year, with warmer temperatures, the bees in most of the hives are clustered close to or above the top bars, not down below where they usually go, and there are hardly any dead bees on the bottom boards.

Perhaps the warmer weather has the bees staying near the top of the hive and eating more honey, staying warmer and not dying off as quickly in the cold. Perhaps just as many bees are dying off this year, but because they’re up top, they’re getting clogged between the frames in the bottom deeps.

I don’t know. But I’m noting it now for my records… and I’ll gladly entertain any theories. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m overlooking something obvious.

6 thoughts on “Warmer November & Less Dead Bees

  1. Today is 12-3-16. I have seen many dead bees on the bottom board in one of my hives (the weaker one) and a fair amount in another stronger hive. The weather here has been very rainy but fairly warm with a few bright and occasionally sunny days. On those sunny days the bees are out even when it isn’t very warm.

  2. Nope, I think it’s a good guess.

    When the bees are active, clearing out debris, including dead bees, is usually #1 on their list of things to do. However, with my 6mm mesh over the entrances, it’s much harder for them to pull out the dead bees. So… I’m back to I don’t know.

  3. Then again, not all bees are big on cleaning. When staying warm is most important, as it would be in a smaller or weaker colony, clearing out dead bees isn’t a priority.

    But I’m just making this up now. It all sound plausible. Many possibilities.

    I will say this, though: I don’t like the warm weather. From what I can tell, most of my colonies are big and will have no problem staying warm. But if it’s warm already, I don’t want all those extra mouths chowing down on their honey stores quicker. It’s strange to see the bees not clustering below the top bars at this time of year. Which brings me to another thought…

    I’ve read from some beekeepers in the American midwest about honey bees that cluster at the top of their Langstroth hives (or similarly constructed hives) and eat through their winter honey by working their way DOWN. But I’ve never seen that in my climate.

    Unless I’m seeing it now for the first time.

    The bees here on the east coast of Newfoundland, at least in my hives, begin at the top of the hive, but as soon as the temperatures drop to about freezing and stay there, the bees cluster deep in the hive and work their way UP to the top of the hive throughout the winter.

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