What reason for dying bees?

AdamM321(MA z5/6)September 17, 2005


I have had a strange occurance. I have had a TON of bees all over my plants this year. Lots of honeybees, bumblebees. I grow plants that attract them..sedums, agastaches, etc. Less than a week ago, there were so many bees covering my sedums that were just opening, it made nervous to walk past the sedums. Must have been 40 of them on one plant. The past two days, I have come out in the morning and seen bees like they were frozen in action on the buds. Like they were right in the middle of getting pollen and stopped. I also saw a few upside down on the underside of leaves. I saw 8 dead bees on the same plant that had 40 buzzing around it the other night.

Any ideas of what is the problem?


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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

It's the time of the Year, where many bees die, have also seen tons of bumbles dead on sunflowers.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 1:26AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Hi Konrad,

I guess I just have never seen this before. So you mean this is a natural occurrance? They are supposed to die this time of year? I have just never seen it in these numbers. I went out in the yard and counted yesterday..26 dead bees on a quick tour of two flower beds and my containers, another 25 looking like they were on their way, barely moving on the blooms, and only 8 bees in the yard that were acting normally. Whereas last week, there must have been more than a hundred energetic bees in my yard.

So where does the next generation of bees come from if so many die every year? Plants must be blooming late, because they haven't even finished pollinating all the sedums yet, and every year all the sedum get pollinated before we stop having bees visiting the yard.

I guess I was afraid we were getting sprayed for mosquitos by the town and I didn't know it or something.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 8:16AM
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txbeeguy(z8 TX)

If you saw "more than a hundred energetic bees" just last week (and I assume, none dead or dieing) and you've counted more than a hundred dead or "on their way" to dieing this week, then this observation doesn't lend itself to just the normally occurring thinning of the population during this time of year. It's not likely that an observation which would be this noticeable to a non-beekeeper could be attributed to the normal aspiration of worker bees on this scale. While there's a remote, but very "outside possibility" of Konrad's explanation being the case, it's certainly not likely (in my opinion). These bees would all have had to be from the same hive and "born" at the same time, and experienced the same or very similar life existence (much more so, than they already do) in order to suddenly die from natural causes while actually working the same flower bed. In other words, a set of coincidences which would be quite amazing. And I see from the weather records, your area hasn't had any real low temperatures during this period of observation. So my inclination is to think of some kind of pesticide poisoning as being the most likely cause. Even if your city hasn't sprayed for mosquitoes, perhaps some neighbors have used pesticides recently.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 1:17PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Well..yes I had at least a hundred maybe one hundred and fifty..energetic bees but counted between the dead and dying about 50 bees. Still seems out of proportion to me.

When you talk about bees being from the same hive, born at the same time..when my flower beds are singing with bees, is it the norm for them to be from different hives and born at different times? Or more usual for a particular hive to be nearby and all of them visit my yard?

You are right, we have had not even close to cool temperatures. I still haven't taken in my coleus and I usually do that when I hear it will dip below 50 degrees.

Well that upsets me if it could be pesticide..when I am so organic. I will keep looking into it and ask around if anyone has used any. I still have a call into the town to see if a mosquito spraying truck came by.

Thanks for all the input..

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 1:49PM
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txbeeguy(z8 TX)

Your 'follow-up' questions are difficult to answer with the limited exchange of information we've had and not knowing the location of your property. Usually, feral colonies, don't tend to build their hives too close together and thus if it's a wild hive, the odds are, there's only one. However, if you have a beekeeper in your area (and his/her presence may only be known to but a very few individuals), then most likely, bees from multiple hives may be visiting your flower beds.
The bees' choice to visit your particular flowers are influenced by the amount of sugars in the nectar they're gathering from your flowers and the distance they have to travel to get to your flowers and if there are any better choices closer to their home. It's why we frequently see a post from gardeners saying they had thousands of bees a week or two ago and now, none. Something more attractive has come into bloom to receive the bees' attentions.
I have found the situation you've described as being peculiar, at least. IF it was a case of pesticide poisoning, you may never find the source. Since the bees can (and do) forage over a wide area - several square miles - it may have come from a source which may completely escape you. And I'd go so far as to say it may not have been mosquito spraying (even if it did occur) because they tend to spray at night when the bees aren't flying and this spraying is generally directed at standing water sources (not nectar or pollen sources). It's more likely a "neighbor" (even if a couple miles away) that was careless in their use of Sevin Dust or some such thing.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 7:24PM
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Hi Adam, TXbeeguy. Although the nights haven't cooled much yet (lord how I look forward to that time), the days are quite a bit shorter. Since Adam doesn't specify that they are mostly honeybees, it could indeed be the general 'throw the bums out' occurring. This is when all the worker bees chase the drones out, and they go looking for a place to spend eternity. I too am finding lots of the smaller ground bees huddled under the flowers, sepals, etc. on many plants. I don't know if I can count 100, but there are lots. I also have a plague (if they can be said to be a plague) of Wheelbugs this year, and they are making out like bandits with the slo-mo bumble bees. On the Hepticodium there are at least 3 at any given time with a bee on the probiscus. Also, with a string of almost breezeless days, the dead bees aren't being knocked off.

Speaking of wheel bugs, I think they are evolved to take the end-of-summer rush to die. The females have really grown so that they are easily 2X the size of the males. They will soon be laying their peculiar egg mass on the under side of the branches and the extra juice they get from the bees probably helps them increase the number of eggs.

There is the chance that somebody has Sevin-ed their place, but that is more common in the spring/summer. I'm hoping that your conditions are like here and that it is a normal condition of having had a bumper crop of feral bees (not feral honeybees though, they are as rare as snow in Tampa anymore), and they are going through their seasonal dieoff.

The answer to your question of where the next generation comes from Adam, is that for most species of bees, only the queens live through the winter. Most of them will hunker down in the leaf litter or in small tunnels and re-emerge in the spring.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 7:45PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Hello again :-)

txbeeguy...I am in Massachusetts. I live in a suburban area that is more like an urban area. The lots are all about 1/4 of an acre. To my knowledge there isn't anyone in a 2 square mile area that seems like a likely candidate to have bee hives. There is a very small farm about 2 miles away, that grows corn, but I have lived in this neighborhood for 20+ years and driven by the farm and visited their farmstand and have never seen any hives. Not to rule out that possibility.

My garden is really one of the VERY few gardens in our neighborhood. There used to be three other gardens in a 6 block radius from my house, but those people have stopped gardening. One person moved and the new owners ripped out a very full garden and cut down every tree in the yard. Everyone else in my neighborhood has only grass and a few shrubs in their yard and trees. I have a small organic vegetable garden and perennials that attract bees and butterflies. I doubled the size of the flower garden in the yard in the last few years, so I have more than usual this year too.

I hadn't thought about where the bees have been BEFORE they get to my yard. I was thinking very narrowly about who in the direct vicinity of "my" yard where the bees are "now" could have sprayed...lol. Now I see how silly that is.

I did continue to go out in the yard and observe the situation throughout the day yesterday and later in the day, I noticed the dead "bodies" of the bees were no longer on the blooms...at least 75% of them. I didn't think to look underneath the plants to see if the dead bodies had just blown off onto the ground, but I am going to look today. I started to think maybe they weren't dead and were just completey motionless for a whole day?? Well, I will check that out today.

I agree about the mosquitio program. They do spray at night, and when they have come by, they just drive down the street and fog the area. I have asked to be skipped, but it seems like a waste of time, since my lot line is about 90 feet and if they shut it off for those 90 feet, I sort of doubt that the spraying before and after me won't get onto my property. [g]


    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 7:04AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Hi Pete :-)

As for identifying the bees..I am always very curious about the insects in my yard and wish I had more knowledge about them. Once in awhile I try to find websites that show photos so I can identify them. I have had a variety of bees, some very small and a few very large. I have had what I consider honeybees which are golden and medium size. But most of the bees I have had look similar to a bumbleebee. They are black with the yellow markings, but are not that large round fluffy kind. The black and yellow bees are mostly medium to large size. I did see about 3 or 4 VERY large black and yellow bees lately though. LOL I am sure you are cringing at my inadequate descriptions. It is such a disadvantage not having a camera to post photos. I am working on that. [g] I counted 50 btw, not 100 dead bees.

Slo-mo bumble bees...that is a perfect description of some of the bees that are not dead yet. I have not seen anything like the wheelbug. I did google that and attach a link for those wondering what a wheelbug is. I never saw one before.

Well..as I said I will continue to observe this. I LOVE bees. I don't really enjoy wasps at all and I hate yellow jackets..are those bees or wasps? I especially love the honeybees and bumblebees. I have two plants that I have noticed the bees love this year. Agastache Honey Bee Blue is true to it's name! The plant was a small plug in the spring by the middle of June it was about 10 stems and blooming. It bloomed the whole summer with no deadheading and there was barely a day that there weren't bumblebees visiting the plant. Sedums are always a big attractor and we divided and multiplied ours a few years ago and this year they were full grown and full of blooms. So I had an increase in activity there.

Well this has been an education...thank you all for the input. I didn't know much about bees and now I know a little more. So since it is just the queen that winters over, then the worker bees that die don't really impact the number you find next year, right? I assume the Queen has stored eggs over the winter and will she then be alone to start a new colony?

Thank you all for your interesting posts...


Here is a link that might be useful: Wow....a wheelbug!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 7:24AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

>> So since it is just the queen that winters over, then the worker bees that die don't really impact the number you find next year, right? I assume the Queen has stored eggs over the winter and will she then be alone to start new colony?

That's right, but only with the bumbles species incl. wasp. and perhaps some others....
The Queen Bumble was mated in fall and she lays eggs when
she finds a new home in spring.

Honey bees are different, normally a honey bees, [worker bee, female] dies in about 7 weeks, due to wear and tare on her body and wings....she works herself to death,
she can fly throughout her life span the equivalent of traveling 4 times around the earth.

The new hatched fall bees will be the bees what carry over the hive in winter and
keep the queen warm, [she can live up to 6 or 7 Years] maintaining a steady temperature of around 30C, 86F in the center of the cluster, even at grueling outside temperature of minus 45C.-49F

I have two hives and it will be a challenge to carry them over for a bee keeper.[fist time for me]
The hive has to get wrapped with insulation and make sure it's vented good..but not too much, because they create moisture inside the hive and it has to go outside, otherwise it will freeze and the ice will melt and killing the bees.

Some will be explained in this bumble video.

Here is a link that might be useful: bumble video

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 12:47AM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)

Hi Konrad..

WOW~ ! That is some video about the queen bee. I am watching it right now. Thanks so much for sending that along. I really am finding it fascinating to learn more about bees. It is a wonder to think of how far a honey bee travels in their short lifetime. That is hard to grasp that a creature that small can travel that distance even if they had 100x the time to do it in!

I can't imagine taking care of hives though. What got you interested in keeping bees? It sounds very exacting to winter them over. Good luck with that, I am sure you will get it just right. :-)

I called the Town today to find out if there was any mosquito spraying last week, and no, they didn't spray anytime in the past month at all.

Thank you so much for that video file.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 2:35PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

You very welcome Adam...

something else to remember, Honey bees at there pick of population in Summer is around 60000 and all these bees will be dead in the fall. The Queen can lay up to 2000 eggs per day.

>>What got you interested in keeping bees?

Bees have fascinated me since I was a child. I was growing up on a farm, just 20 Yards away from a bee house......something like this in the link below.
The bees are fun to watch, how they work, always busy, day and night and allays very organized. For some reason I knew then, which bees don't sting [the drone, male bee]
they are a bit larger the worker bee and I used to full other kids, how I could pick up bees, [only on certain flowers in the fall, it was Asters as I remember] most of the drone population you will see in the fall and the worker bees are wrestling them out of the hive [no longer needed] I didn't know that these bees where male bees then .. ..... I just love bees!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 12:56AM
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I live in west surburb of Boston, MA. This fall around later sept. to early oct. We found every day there are about 10 bees getting into our house and then die. It looks like the bees trying to squeeze into the house through the window seals. We don't know the reason, since it never happened before since we moved in three years ago. Any particular reason drives bees to get into the house and what caused the bees die? whether?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 5:36PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA


I wanted to resurrect this post, because I was just thinking about the bees this year and that I have hardly seen any bumble bees. Last year and the year before I think I had a lot but as this post from the fall last year reports, a lot of them were dying. So I am thinking they were not just doing what bees do at the end of the year, but must have actually been dying, since there are so fewer of them this year. Anyone else notice this where they are?


    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 3:38PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Around here, the mites in throats of bees are killing them, all season long. There are VERY few wild bees anywhere around anymore. It is also very hard to medicate the bees in cutivated hives, to keep them healthy without killing bees.

There are some home remedies that SEEM to work, not real science but the bees are staying healty, hives are keeping populations up instead of steady losses.
The one I heard of was planting mint, not sure what kind, perhaps Monarda or maybe plain mint, around the entrance of hive. This entices bees to land on plants before walking on into hive. The mites don't seem able to tolerate the mint, and die. Sure an easy method to try out, cheap and healthy for the bees.

Hope someone comes up with something to aid the bees in fighting off the mites without killing the bees. I have seen more wasps, several kinds, this year than bees. Just lately noticing the honeybees and others, visiting the flowers.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 12:28AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks for sharing that tip about the mint. Since I don't have a hive, I guess it won't be something I can do. I am sorry to hear about the mites continuing to be such a problem for the bees. I also hope there are people studying the problem and will come up with something to help.

Here in Massachusetts we have had a number of deaths from EEE this season. After record rains, we had a huge mosquito population. Now they are spraying for mosquitos over a 1/2 million acres. I am worrying about how that is going to effect the bees and other beneficial populations.

You wonder where it is all heading.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 4:50AM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

prairiemoon, what's EEE, that it's killing your bees?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 2:26PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi thisbud...

That is the Triple E virus that is actually killing people here in Massachusetts. They get infected from mosquito bites, so the state starts spraying the areas where mosquitos are to kill the mosquitoes. I was just wondering if when they spray for mosquitoes they kill bees and other beneficial insects.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:24PM
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thisbud4u(San Diego)

Thanks, praiiemoon. Sorry to hear about this virus. Guess I don't watch the news enough. Just reading up on it now: "eastern equine encephalitis". Dang, if there's a vaccine for it in horses, you'd think we could create one for humans.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:41PM
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