Monday, December 27, 2010

Honeybee Housekeeping

Yesterday we found about 20 honeybees dead in the snow near some hives in Durham City, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that some new catastrophe was befalling these useful insects. But a bit of Googling around beekeepers' web sites suggests that it ain't neccessarily so.

Apparently dead bees are quite common around hives in winter but when they are scattered in the grass and withered leaves they usually pass unnoticed. Opinion seems to be that they are there for two common reasons for this winter mortality. One is that on sunny days, even in the depths of winter, members of the hive remove the corpses of dead bees and dump them some way away, as part of their winter housekeeping. The other possibility is that bees' metabolism ticks over during winter and waste material accumulates in their hind gut, so they occasionally leave the hive on bright days just to defaecate; some don't make it back before the cold gets to them. Given that all of these dead bees were in a few metres of one another, I'd go for the former explanation in this instance.

12 comments:

  1. Yet another amazing post from you Phil. Absolutely fascinating!! Thank you.

    All the best for the New Year - and keep up the good work!

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  2. Phil, brilliant, I as you know would have planted my size ten wellie and never noticed. Have a good New Year and keep plugging away. I promise a bit sinks in. Not only that I am starting to treat walks as a voyage of discovery rather than physical exercise or purely as a means of getting to where I am going.

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  3. All the best to you too for 2011, Richard - I'll be a regular visitor to your blog

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  4. it drives my wife crazy, Adrian! - sometimes it takes us half an hour to cover a few hundred yards.

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  5. The snow had a use in the end.
    Fascinating, and would have been unnoticed probably, if not for the snow.

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  6. Well, is heavy winter also , here in Romania!
    No bees, no flowers, no sun!
    Have, my compliments for this post , too!
    Regards!

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  7. he snow is going fast now Keith and I'm beginning to wish that I'd taken more photos of the animal tracks, that often tell and interesting story....

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  8. Greetings Wind! It's dismal weather here too - can't wait for the spring to arrive.

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  9. Bees are such interesting animals - their activities are so well worked out and streamlined. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing them buzzing about in the Spring. :)

    All the best for the New Year Phil!

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  10. All the best to you too for 2011 Lesley...

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  11. Happy New Year to you from Romania!
    I wish you all my best!
    Regards

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  12. Happy New Year to you too Wind - good wishes for 2011..

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