Finding dead bees in your hive is always heartbreaking. But examining the dead bees and noting their location and their condition can help you understand what is wrong with your hive’s health.
If your dead bees have their tongues sticking out, they probably died from pesticide poisoning. When bees are poisoned, their bodies are often found in piles. A large pile of bees, all of which have their tongues out, indicates that your bees have access to some sort of chemical or pesticide that is killing them.
You can also examine the behavior of living bees to determine if you have a poison problem. If some of your bees are behaving strangely, they may have been exposed to poisonous pesticides in non-lethal doses. Bees that have consumed small amounts of poison may be unable to fly, or they might shake or run in strange patterns inside the hive or otherwise behave in erratic ways. They might also act more aggressive than usual.
Many chemicals that humans use are toxic to bees. If you notice that your bees are dying, find out if they are exposed to any pesticides. If you live in a suburban neighborhood, check with your neighbors to see what kind of chemicals they use on their land. If you live by farmland, try to find out what kinds of pesticides are being used nearby. There are many insecticides that are bee-friendly, but in general insecticides are more harmful to bees than fungicides and herbicides are.
Every state in the US has its own Pesticide Regulatory Agency, which works with the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce federal pesticide rules. You can contact your state’s Pesticide Regulatory Agency to find out more about the kind of pesticides that are allowed in your state and what kind of notice needs to be given before they are administered. The agency can also help you if you believe that neighbors are misusing pesticides.
Why Am I Finding Dead Bees On the Ground?
While pesticides and chemicals pose a real threat to bees, there are many other reasons that bees die. Honeybees face many challenges in today’s world, and their numbers have been declining because of agricultural practices, parasites, and changes in weather brought on by climate change.
If you find dead bees on the ground near your hive, they might have died from natural causes. Worker bees will literally work themselves to death, and if the dead bodies are scattered around and not in one single large pile, they probably died naturally. You might be alarmed at the number of dead bees that you find, but if you have several hives it’s normal to have a decent number of dead bees. A healthy hive has around 50,000 bees in it, and new bees are hatching every day. As new bees hatch, old ones die off. Losing 1,000 bees in one day is to be expected.
Bees might also die because of changes in weather. If you have a sudden, unexpected cold spell, worker bees can freeze to death while they are out foraging. If you have a longer winter than expected, your bees might not have enough food stores to feed them until spring, in which case a large percentage of your hive will die.
Bees die inside the hive as well as outside of it. When bees die inside the hive, their bodies are carried out of the hive and left outside. Removing the dead bees keeps the hive healthy and clean. This process of removing dead bodies even has a name – it’s called “necrophoresis”! There are specific bees, called “undertaker bees,” that are responsible for removing bee carcasses and other debris.
How Do I Prevent My Bees From Dying?
Bee death is frustrating because it is often out of any individual person’s control. If your bees die from pesticide exposure, you have to consider the environment around them, which isn’t always something you can change or fix. If they die from natural causes, you must accept it as part of the life cycle of a healthy hive. If they die from extreme weather, there’s little you can do to save them. Harmful diseases and pests are usually hard to treat.
There are some simple steps you can take to encourage bee health and prevent unnecessary deaths in your hive. Do not use pesticides or other chemicals on your lawn. If you live in a residential area, talk to your neighbors about their pesticide use. Pesticides are one of the biggest threats to bees. They can shorten their lifespan, harm their fertility, prevent them from flying, harm their immune system, and ultimately kill them. Share this information with the people who live nearby to help them understand why it is important to use a limited amount of pesticides.
Make sure that your bees have access to clean water. Provide them with a water source close to their hive. This will prevent them from going further away and drinking from polluted sources. If you have access to a pond or lake, place your beehive near it. If you don’t have any such bodies of water nearby, you can use something as simple as a mason jar filled with water. Simply place it beside your hive!
Dead bees on your hive floor or surrounding your hive could be a sign of a parasitic infection. One of the most common parasites that kills honeybees is called varroa. It attaches itself to the body of a bee and feeds off of the bee, which negatively affects its health. There are many chemicals that can be used to treat varroa, but all of them pose risks for your bees. Instead of using a chemical treatment, try dusting your hive with powdered sugar. Remove frames from the hive one at a time and dust them. Be sure to avoid open cells, and only dust the capped cells of the honeycomb. Repeat this process weekly for a few weeks to control a varroa infestation.
Winter weather is an unavoidable threat that can wreak havoc on a weak hive. You can keep your bees from dying in the winter by making sure that they are ready to undergo the overwintering process. Your bees need enough honey to feed themselves for the winter or they will starve. Don’t take too much of their honey for yourself. If they are running short on honey, provide them with syrup to feed on. A single hive needs about ten frames of honey to survive the winter.
To keep your bees healthy and productive, you have to think like a detective. You should be able to look at a dead bee and decide (based on its appearance and location) what it’s probably cause of death was. If a bee is found lying among many other bees with its tongue sticking out, it was probably poisoned. If it is found on the ground outside its hive and is not surrounded by other bees, it probably died a natural death. If there are dead bees inside your hive, they might have suffered from a parasitic infestation.
Some of your bees will die every day: it’s a natural part of the hive’s lifecycle. But when many bees die at once there is cause for concern. Use the information above to determine what is harming your bees and take steps to address it if you are able to. Bees may provide you with honey, but they also help pollinate countless plants. It’s important for everyone that we understand the threats to these helpful insects and do our best to protect them.