Rob Coleman's picture

Bees out of the hive

Observed: 20th December 2009 By: Rob ColemanInvertebrates expert

I found 10s of dead and dying bees yesterday on top of some fresh overnight snow. Anyone else seen anything like this/potential explanations?

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) interacts


dshubble's picture

Honey bees in winter

Unlike colonies of social wasps and bumble bees, honey bee colonies over-winter with the bees clustering in a tight ball (much activity in a bee colony is aimed at surviving the next winter). Then, in January, the queen starts laying eggs in the centre of the nest and because stored honey and pollen are used to feed the resulting larvae, colony stores may fall dangerously low in late winter when brood production has started but plants are not yet producing nectar or pollen. When spring "nectar flows" begin, bee populations can grow rapidly.

However, this doesn't really answer your question :) There have been many reports of overwinter colony deaths and much mention of this in terms of Colony Collapse Disorder. There's a vast amount of www-based info (and speculation) about CCD, but one news report that might be of interest is at:

Hope that helps...

Rob Coleman's picture

Thanks for this. Can't think

Thanks for this. Can't think why the bees would be out and about in such cold weather - which was clearly too much for them. They must have emerged and died within quite a short time frame (that morning) as they were on top of a fresh layer of snow from the night before.

Rob Coleman

Habitat_Aid's picture

I'd be pretty confident they

I'd be pretty confident they either starved and/or their queen conked out. The warm weather in the autumn after the ivy flowered this year has meant that many colonies were active at a time of year when they could find little forage, so will have used up their stores prematurely. We also experienced a lot of robbing this year by other, starving colonies, which compounded the problem. Alternatively, if the queen died - if the colony was too small to keep itself warm, for example - they might well just give up.