Disposal of Pupating Honey Bees

Yet another interesting observation today. I went out to check on the hive and sat and watched them come and go for a couple minutes when I noticed one bee carrying a large white object out the front entrance. It seemed to take a lot of effort to drag it and once it got to the edge of the hive it was able to fly about six inches up and six inches away into our lawn where it then dumped the white object. While it had been in mid-air, it almost seemed like the white thing was alive and wriggling. I went over to where it lay in the lawn and found that it was a honey bee that was near the final stages of pupation. It seemed to be large in size, but not queen size, and it had absolutely no pigment just yet.

I went in the house to grab my video camera and bring my husband out to look at it. Video camera had no juice, but when I brought Andrew out with me we were both able to witness another body being disposed of. Later in the day I found a total of three carcases in the lawn. I have no idea what this means, if anything, for my hive. A couple of online searches mentioned potential viruses and mite problems, another talked about how some hives can over-estimate on the number of drones they should produce in the spring and how they cart off the extra ones.

I’ve charged up my camera and plan to go out tomorrow around the same time to see if I can catch them in the act again.


5 thoughts on “Disposal of Pupating Honey Bees

  1. It can be any number of things. As you say, it could be culling the drone population, it could be the result of infection/damage that the bees are trying to correct, it could be a lack of food and reducing the future population as a result. I’d just keep an eye on them, and if they continue to do it for a few more days take a peek inside the hive and see if how the frames look. If they’re overly spotted (the bees have started uncapping larvae cells to start removing the larvae) theres probably something wrong that needs serious investigating. That said, sometimes the bees just do a random weird thing, and those three little bees weren’t allowed to live. My first colony disposed of a few young bees every so often, but I didn’t see anything wrong with the hive in general.

    • Interesting about the population reduction. So far today I don’t see anymore removals, hopefully a population reduction isn’t the case. They do seem to be bringing in a lot of pollen throughout the day, but something I’ll plan to keep a watch on. I had been feeding them for a couple weeks initially but it was attracting yellow jackets so I stopped.
      It’s good to know that yours disposed of young ones once in a while without meaning there was anything wrong. Random weird things for sure, but that’s what I find so interesting – there is so much to learn about them!

      • Yeah, I split my bees a couple weeks ago and haven’t fed them anything, and I don’t plan on feeding the swarm that occurred yesterday either. Call me mean, but bees have been surviving for millennia without syrup, so feeding them just isn’t something I feel need to do. Plus, White Hive has more honey than it knows what to do with already, so clearly there’s plenty of nectar in the area.
        Anyway. I would just keep an eye on things and take lots of notes! Honestly, the best way to learn is to watch what your girls are doing.

  2. When they were taking out the white bodies – did it follow a cold spell? Could it be chilled brood? (Have we had anything else this year if you are in the UK like me). Lovely blog. This is my third year with bees; the first year is magical and you seem to learn more each year after – still so enchanting. Observation can tell you so much. I dropped by after your comment on the bee journey analysis on my blog. Tricia

    • Nice to meet you, Tricia!
      Hmmmm, that would have been good of me to note the weather around that time. It hasn’t really gotten cool here since early spring, however, it’s pretty much been above 70F since April and there have been days that are well into the 90s (I’m in Detroit, MI). The bodies all appeared to be large which leads me to think they may have been drones. They’ve only done it one other time for what I’ve seen, but I think the ants are benefiting from these sacrifices and take care of the bodies right away, so who knows if I’m seeing them all. I’m excited to get back in the hive this weekend to see what’s new. Thanks for the feedback! As you say, it has been a magical experience thus far for me; I’m completely entranced by the bees.

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