Why Do I Have Dead Bees In Front Of My Hive?

Finding dead bees in front of your hive can be as discouraging as it is upsetting. However, when you notice dead bees in front of your hive, you should not take it lightly and try your best to find the cause, as it would be your best chance to save your stinger friends! Why do you have dead bees in front of your hive?

Dead bees in front of a hive can indicate starvation, disease, moisture, or pesticide poisoning. Bees outside the cluster may also die of cold, or bees that have been inside the hive for a while may die of dysentery from unsanitary conditions. Bees dying of old age are not uncommonly heard of.

If you have been a beekeeper for a while, you know that finding dead bees in front of your hive is a given. However, when you notice these conditions worsening, you need to take action and know what has gone wrong. Stay with us as we discuss why you may have dead bees in front of your hive!

Reasons For Having Dead Bees In Front Of Your Hive

Dead bees in front of your hive could indicate many things, and you need to know what questions to ask and what symptoms to look for.

While a small number of deceased bees in front of a hive is a common scene, your beekeeping instincts will tell you if there is an underlying problem.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at why you may have dead bees in front of your hive:

Dead Bees In Front Of The Hive Could Be Caused By Starvation

If you notice this scene around your hive and it’s in the middle of winter, your bees may have died of starvation.

Bees dying from starvation are most common in the winter, especially when food is insufficient. Look in the hive and see if you notice a lot of dead bees with their head in the cells. If this is the case, you can be sure your bees have starved.

If it is during the summer and you notice all of these signs, it’s not uncommon for bees to die of starvation during summer if there is no honey in their hives.

Dead Bees In Front Of  The Hives Could Be Caused By Disease

One of the beekeepers’ worst fears is losing their entire hive to diseases like American Foulbrood or varroa.

Look for some clues of diseases, such as larvae stringing out when inserting a toothpick into a cell and trembling bees crawling around the outside of the hive. These symptoms can be caused by varroa and American Foulbrood.

In the case of Foulbrood, you should not reuse your combs. Send your bees and combs in for testing and speak to a more experienced beekeeper, local bee club, or an apiary inspector.

You may need to burn or irradiate your equipment and combs in order to kill the spores from these diseases and lower the risk of infecting other bee colonies in your apiary or area.

Wet Hives With Too Much Moisture Can Cause Dead Bees

If your hive seems overly wet, with a lot of moisture or mold in the hive, condensation may be the culprit.

Cold and wet bees are dead bees, and bees outside the cluster may die of coldness. Bees taking flights may not make it back to their hives in time, causing them to die of coldness, especially during the winter.

If you suspect moisture is the culprit, you must try to ventilate your hives better to allow more air to circulate.

Check to see whether all the equipment is still intact and if water cannot seep into the hive. Check your hives for mold or mildew, as these could also indicate your hive needs more ventilation.

Many Dead Bees In Front Of A Hive Could Have Been Poisoned

When you see a whole pile of dead bees outside of their hive, you can take this as a clear indication that an event of poisoning has happened.

Although mites can cause the loss of a whole colony, these bees will not be found outside the hive but inside on the bottom board.

When you see a large pile of your poor bees lying outside the hive, it raises the likelihood of poisoning. Still, it could be challenging to determine.

However, if you have been attending to your bees in the last two days and know the pile of dead bees is a recent occurrence, somebody has likely sprayed a pesticide nearby, and the spray drifted into the hives.

One sure way to tell if poisoning has occurred is to examine some of your dead bees and see if their tongues (proboscis) are sticking out. This is a common symptom of poisoned bees.

Dead Bees In Front Of Hive Caused By Nosema Or Dysentery

Look at the outside of your hive, which has the dead bees. Look closely for yellow or brown colored stains around the exterior of the hive, as well as close to the hive opening and the inside.

If you notice these stains, your dead bees are likely caused by nosema or dysentery. It may be best to send your bees in for further testing, but you can be sure that dysentery has most likely been the case if you notice these symptoms.

Nosema or dysentery is caused by many bees being unable to leave their hives for several consecutive weeks, and they may succumb to the build-up of their own waste inside of their tiny bodies.

When large amounts of waste are excreted inside a hive, it will promote unsanitary conditions that may kill large numbers of bees in the hive, and they will try to come out as their natural survival instincts kick in.

Your Bees May Have Died Of Old Age

If you bought your entire colony at the same time, the chances are that most of them are all around the same age. Most worker bees will live an average of 15 to 38 days during the summer and about 150 to 200 days during the winter.

If you have tried all your troubleshooting, you may need to accept that there were no stressful in-hive conditions, and their lives may have simply run their course.

Conclusion

When you see dead bees, you must troubleshoot them and clean the bottom board immediately. You don’t need to remove every dead bee; make sure the entrance is open. You can scrape any dead bees by removing the entrance reducer and using a stick or hive tool to get through the entrance and drag them along the bottom board.

Dead bees in front of your hive may seem discouraging, but beekeeping is all about trial and error, don’t give up!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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