Mortician Bees In The Winter

We've had a few cold nights down into the low 20*F this week, but today was a little warmer at almost 50*F around noon.

I took a walk past the blue/purple hive and noticed it had dead bees on the landing board. It is part of the cycle of life that bees die during the winter, but when it is too cold to fly the mortician bees can't carry out the dead bees.

Typically the dead bees accumulate on the bottom board of the hive until it is warm enough for a mortician bee to carry their bodies away from the hive, or at least push them out onto the landing board.

I suppose seeing that they were on the landing board, and not backed up on the other side of the mouse guard is a good sign.

I took a picture from below the hives, looking up through the screened bottom board where you could see maybe a couple more bees laying here and there. I thought it was a pretty neat angle to peek into the hive through.

However, in an unfortunate accident where I bumped my SD Card reader while it was downloading images to my computer and knocked the SD Card out, it wiped the card and I lost my pictures.

I used software to recover the pictures from the card, and wouldn't you know it, all 800 pictures were recovered except the one looking through the SBB!

I did take the outer cover and inner cover off for a brief moment to look inside, and I could see a cluster of bees occupying about 6 frames in the top box. I did not look into the bottom box to know if the cluster extended down into the bottom of the box or not, although I suspect that they are.

Here's something strange: I did find two or three lone bees frozen in place on frames 8 and 9, farthest away from the cluster. Their heads were not down in the cells as is typical when bees starve to death. They were standing tall on the edges of the cells as if they were walking around on the comb.

I wonder why they would have wandered away from the cluster (and the heat of the cluster) and allowed themselves to freeze?

I suppose on the next warm day, the mortician bees will be carrying them out and tossing them out of the hive too.

On a good note, the hive is still heavy with stores, and doesn't need any intervention from me.

Comments For This Post: (1) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Mark says...
Date:   December 13, 2011, 8:02 am

Interesting, I wonder if they work at all like other animals when they know they are dieing and leave the group to die alone.  Sorry, a bit of a depressing thought there!

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