Dead Bees


If you have found dead bees, there are various possible explanations, depending on the species and circumstances.

Sometimes, the causes are natural rather than sinister.  All creatures live then die, either due to age, disease, natural predators and so on. 

Pesticides are certainlya cause for concern - see the links in the navigation bar right for further information.


Most bees have very short life spans – as little as a few short weeks. The only exceptions within a colony are the queens.  

You can read more on my page: How Long Do Bees Live?

In my experience, most people tend to report specifically seeing dead bumblebees, that is, with the exception of beekeepers – we’ll get to that in a moment





Questions To Consider


  • Which species? 
  • Is it one particular species in one specific location? 
  • Are the bees dead in the nest and can any parasites or strange webbing be seen?
  • Or are there different species, and is the location scattered widely? 
  • How many bees are there?   For example, are there thousands of honey bees or a handful of bumblebees (say 5 to 150?)
  • Are there any other insects, also dead, such as butterflies, hoverflies and so on?



Have You Found Dead Bumblebees?

If you have found dead bees – usually up to around ten, all within a confined area, and you believe they are bumblebees, then most commonly this is part of the normal bumblebee colony lifecycle.   Bees will clear out their nests to preserve hygiene, and this includes removing dead bees.  The possible reasons for the death of these bees in the first place could be natural causes such as age, disease, or attack from a predator, resulting in casualties.   Usually, there will be a nest nearby – although perhaps you haven’t seen it.  

Remember bumblebee nests can feature in a variety of places - high above the ground (even in bird boxes) but also underground in abandoned rodent holes, or in clumps of grass.

Please note too, that at the end of the season, in the vast majority of cases, only the new bumblebee queens will live and establish new colonies the following year, whilst the rest of the bumblebee colony will sadly not survive.  A few exceptions are being reported (i.e. with bumblebee colonies surviving the winter), and there are differences in some warmer climates.

Last year, my sister found dead bees by her pond. When I asked her for further information, it turned out they were bumblebees. They had made a nest by the water’s edge, and the dead bees were found around the entrance.   More than likely, the reasons were part of the normal lifecycle and trials of an average bumblebee colony.


Dead Bees Around The Trunk Of A Tree

If you have found many dead bees around the base of a tree, check whether the tree is a lime.  Some lime trees are toxic for bees – some species are believed to be more poisonous for bumblebees than honey bees.  The lime trees are irresistible to the bees, but sadly they are fatal for them. 

I’m concerned about a trend to import ornamental species of lime for gardens without any consideration at all for the effects on local wildlife.  Personally, I would like to see this behaviour regulated and banned where toxic effects are noted.

Alternatively, has the tree been sprayed with pesticide?  If so, it could be a case of acute poisoning (rather than chronic poisoning), and you may see other dead insects aound the same area.  If you suspect poisoning, I recommend you collect evidence – dead specimens, photographs, and any information you can about the use of pesticides at the location, then report it to your local authority, or health and safety organisation.  Some countries have specific places where wildlife poisonings are meant to be reported – check this with a relevant government body.  Personally, I would try to keep back some of the evidence – copies of photos and a number of dead specimens, because the effectiveness of these schemes  for reporting poisonings can be variable.  Neonicotinoid pesticides are a particular cause for concern (see the links right).

Just One?
Have you found a dead bee (a single specimen), perhaps on the ground or even on a plant? Again, the reasons could be perfectly natural, for example, because of the age of the bee, due predator attack, internal parasites or disease.  Some bees can be mistaken for dead, when in fact they are resting.  If you have found a bee alive, but in need of a little TLC, go to this page.


Death Of A Colony Of Bumblebees

If you find a whole colony of dead bumblebees – i.e. in the nest, then it is likely that this is due to the invasion of a predator or parasite, and there may be visible signs of this, such as silky webbing (wax moth) or the parasites and their larvae may themselves be visible.

If you come across an infested nest, sadly, there is generally little you can do to help the bees at this stage.



Dead Honey Bees?

Finding a few dead honey bees is perfectly normal. Again, dead bees are automatically removed from the nest or hive. During the winter, there will usually be more casualties, and this is known as ‘winter mortality’.

This is significantly different from the exceptional losses reported in recent years, with beekeepers losing around 30% of colonies or more due to colony collapse disorder (although this ‘condition’ is a term used to describe a number of phenomena, with variations in definitions and symptoms reported).  Many countries have a system for recording collapses, and it’s important to record these incidences. However, it is my personal view that the impact of pesticides should also be considered, since they may significantly weaken the colony and make them more vulnerable to diseases.  Read more about neonicotinoids and bees, and here are just a few examples that have been reported globally.


Other subjects of interest:

Why do bees dig? 

Why do bees buzz?

Why do bees bump into windows?

How Can I Help The Bees?

How Can councils Help Bees?

 




Read more about bees in the following links:


Bee Nests Q&A
Read more about bees nests.


About Bees
Find out more about bees - take a look at this introductory page. Why do bees buzz? How long do bees live? What are the differences between the types of bees? How do the bee life cycles differ...and more!


Bee Plants
Help bees by planting lots of flowers on which they can forage. There are lots of lists of different plant types here, and there are even plants for problem places.


Go back from Dead Bees to Home page


Protected by Copyscape DMCA Takedown Notice Checker


COPYRIGHT 2010 - 2014: WWW.BUZZABOUTBEES.NET
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.




Neonicotinoid Pesticides Are Putting Bees At Risk!

Read

How do neonicotinoids work to kill insects like bees? 

Manufacturers provide clues!

Read



What can manufacturer patents tell us about the risks their chemicals pose to non-target insects?

Read


How Can Councils Help The Bees?
Ideas To Share