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.

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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.

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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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Dead Man Walking…or Flying

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Drone Bee

Ah…the life of drone bees (that’s the males) is such a carefree, easy thing. The worker bees raise them, feed them, and send them off to “work” each day at the drone congregation areas. While at “work” they wait around to see if a virgin queen comes by and happens to want to mate with a few of them. (Now for the lucky guys chosen to mate with the queen, the story ends there, cause they die after they do the deed.) But the bachelor drones, they just return to the hive to be fed by the workers, rest, and do it all again tomorrow. They play all day while the female bees do the real work. To be fair, if the hive is too warm or too cold, the drones do help with warming or cooling the hive, but that’s about it.

Until October.

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Female Worker Bee Attacks Drone Bee

When the weather starts to cool down, the girls wise up. Winter is tough for the bees and resources are scarce. There is nothing extra to waste on drones who don’t contribute much to the well being of the hive. One day the boys come home, expecting to be cared for and catered to, but instead they are met at the hive door with a rude reception.

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Yellow Jacket Finds A Tasty Drone Snack

The workers attack the drones and will not allow them back into the hive. Drones don’t even get issued stingers, so they are no match for the waiting females. Eventually the drones are killed and fall to the ground in front of the hive, where yellow jackets are waiting to eat their dead bodies.

By pure luck I was out at the hives at just the right time and caught a video of the girls kicking the guys to the curb. It was pretty ruthless, but in the animal kingdom it’s all about survival. The drones are easy to spot in the clip because they are larger and darker than the workers.

Yep…it’s Halloween at the hive. Sometimes the girls just can’t Bee Sweet, but that’s no excuse for you not to bee!