Aristaeus’ Mysteries: Where do all the dead bees go?


Aristaeus Hive Landing Board View

Where do the dead bee carcasses go that are in the apiary where my hives are?  I knew there are under-taker bees that transport dead bees away some distance from the colony.  There are corporate sponsored hives near my work, and the beekeepers have neglected to clean up the thousands of dead bees around their hives after the winter kill.  Shameful!  In my apiary, there are no more than a couple dead bees lying around at any time.  Why?

I was in my hives a lot this weekend and inadvertently killed many bees.  I feel terrible about this because being relatively new to beekeeping and like the bees, this stings me too.  Smarts it does, the hope is these lunatic feelings of remorse will inevitably fade with time, someday I hope to laugh at my self.  Back to the corpses of bees that lay in front of the hive after the under-taker bees give up trying to fly them far away from the colony.  I sat in front of the hive after my work was done and watched the bees clean burr comb left out for them.

Then what happened was two hornets were loitering suspiciously in front of the hive at ground level.  I thought they might have come for the syrup spilled earlier in the day.  Nope, the syrup was gone.  One hornet was working on something… what was she doing?  Looking closely she was butchering the fresh corpse of a bee that had been dropped in front of the hive.  She tried to pick it up once or twice to fly away with the whole carcass, but couldn’t lift it.  Eventually, she got the head off and flew away with it.  A minute later she was back and flew away with the rest of the carrion. Fantastic, the circle of life at work.


Hornet Working on Honey Bee Caracas

I looked around for the other hornet and couldn’t see her but a couple feet away from the hive saw a bee moving, not an unnatural way.  A wood ant was dragging the corpse away.  The ant is a quarter inch long and was managing quite well with the 5/8 inch bee.  And the circle continues…


Wood Ant Dragging a Honey Bee Caracas Away


So I wonder if the chipmunks in the area are also munching on dead bees?  Will need to watch out for that.  It just goes to prove that nothing is wasted in nature unless humanity is given supremacy.  Bee, wasps, and hornets all have their function.




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