Bring Out Your Dead

It’s Halloween at the Hive 

It’s only fitting that we finish up the spooky season with a tish more hauntingly interesting happenings around the hive. Now when I clean house, I deal with a lot of yuck! Dirt and grime, absolutely. Lost socks and dirty laundry, yep, constantly. Unidentified leftovers that must be evicted from the refrigerator, sure. But thankfully, I don’t have the job of removing undeveloped siblings and tossing them out the front door. And to think many kids complain that they have to take out the trash! Now, of course, the bee girls don’t walk through the hive shouting, “Bring out your dead!” Monty Python style, but they do occasionally go ahead and move out a bee that’s not quite dead as a way to protect the hive.

Worker on robber screen

A worker bee struggles to remove an undeveloped larvae through a robber screen.

The bees do an excellent job of watching the development of the bee babies. If something seems awry in the growth of the larvae, the workers open the cell, kill the developing bee, and transport the body out of the hive. Reasons may include hygienic removal of pupa infested with mites, poor development from genetic problems, and pupa that is growing in comb that has been broken open, perhaps from an intruder or careless beekeeper. If the hive is starving, they may even choose to eat some of the babies, to serve as a source of protein for the colony.

yello jackets eat bees

Yellow jackets devour an undeveloped larvae.

A few times, I’ve watched as a worker bee painstakingly struggles to haul out a corpse and toss it from the entrance.The larvae and pupa are white in color and look freakish and ghostly when they are being thrown out. Yellow jackets and birds watch and wait, hoping to pick up an easy meal at the door. Many beekeepers have free range chickens that love to forage outside the hive. My husband even snagged a picture of a mantis enjoying a bee for lunch.

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A mantis snacks on a bee on top of a hive.

The fight for survival has been pretty graphic around the hive lately. Between neighbors that plummage the hive and cause an all out battle, evicting the drones as winter sets in, and hauling dead larvae bodies out of the hive, the girls have had some morbid jobs to take care of lately, but I suppose it’s all a part of beeing a bee. All that dirty work is really what it takes to keep the hive healthy and strong.

Wishing you lots of treats from all of us at the bee farm! I promise we’ll rejoin our regularly scheduled programming, filled with fun and frivolity next week. Until then, watch your back at the beehive, and BEE SWEET!

Oh and ladies, as we bring Breast Cancer Awareness Month to a close, make sure you get your BOO-BEES checked out regularly if you are over 40, earlier if you have a family history!

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