Finding Dead Bees In Winter

Here are our top tips on what to do if you find dead bees during winter:

  • Don’t panic
  • Provide the hive with some sugar water
  • Check the hive temperature
  • Add extra honey for warmth

As a beekeeper, what you want is a healthy hive and happy bees. This means that seeing dead bees often equals some worry. New beekeepers often panic when they find dead bees littering the snow or piled up on the hive entrance. Luckily, not all deaths can be considered a bad thing.

How to Handle Bee Deaths in Winter

When you find dead bees in winter, it’s vital that you:

  • Remain calm
  • Feed your bees
  • Check the hive temperature
  • Add extra honey for warmth

Remain Calm

There’s no need to panic as bees die every day, and this is normal. Panicking can cause you to make unnecessary mistakes, which can worsen the situation in the hive.

Make Sure Your Bees Have Food

Having enough food is vital to colony survival. Thus, if you check and you see that food is low, it falls on you to make sure they’re fed.

Give your bees some sugar water, preferably in little cups that can go into the hive since it’s cold outside, and your bees might not want to take the trip. Honey bees don’t hibernate through winter, so they’re going to need food throughout the colder months.

Make Sure Your Bees Aren’t Freezing 

If you keep your bees in a controlled area, then it’s easy to make sure that your bees aren’t freezing to death by keeping temperatures regulated with your thermostat.

Add Extra Honey For Warmth 

If you leave your bees in the wild, then keeping them warm can be a problem. If you have extra honeycombs from the colony, however, then you may stuff some in to keep them warm.

Is it Normal to Find Dead Bees in Winter?

Bees die every day. It doesn’t matter how healthy a bee colony is; there’ll still be many deaths.

In the summer, up to a thousand bees could die in a day. These bees that die in the summer are foragers. These foragers go out on the job, and they don’t return. As a beekeeper, you wouldn’t even notice that they were missing. 

Their absence isn’t felt since the queen bee lays up to 1,500 eggs a day. It’s never difficult to find a replacement in a colony. Additionally, because these bees die while on the job, you wouldn’t find their bodies littering the ground.

In the winter, however, the case is very different. Bees still die every day, but this time, they die where you can see them. You might have a colony going strong at 50,000 bees, but come spring, that number could drop to up to 20,000 bees.

This population drop isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The queen isn’t replacing them since queens don’t lay eggs in the winter. Once the seasons are favorable again, the population will go right back up.

How Do Bees Handle Their Dead In Winter?

In a healthy colony, bees won’t sleep with their dead inside. If all is in order inside of the colony, then undertaker bees will be assigned every day to pick up the bodies of the dead bees and take them out 

On the warmer days, these undertaker bees venture out of the hive. They drop the bodies on the ground and go back to the hive.

When it’s cold, the bees assigned with undertaker duties shove the dead bees out of the hive. These are the dead bees that you will find piled at the hive entrance.

Thus, instead of being alarmed by finding dead bees in the winter, you should be more alarmed when you find none — the colony isn’t operating as it should.

Can Bee Deaths in Winter Be Bad?

While it’s perfectly normal to find some bees dead in the winter, there are times when bee deaths can be a very bad sign:

  • Dead queen
  • Starvation
  • Due to the cold

A Dead Queen 

Despite finding dead bees in winter being normal, it’s still important to look at which bees are dying to avoid catastrophe. Most importantly, look for the queen among the dead outside of the hive.

If she’s there, then you can quickly step in to save the colony. One way to do this is by combining the queenless colony with a nucleus colony.

Starvation

If your bees are dying, before you write it off as normal, go check on your hive to make sure that they aren’t starving. Bees feed on honey during the winter, so if they don’t have enough, they’ll begin to starve, and you could have yourself a whole dead beehive

You don’t have to lose your bees in this case, but you can only save them if you catch the problem early. Make sure that you check up on them regularly in the winter for signs like aggression and an excessive number of dead bees outside the hive.

Cold

Bees don’t like the cold at all. On very cold days, bees make a tight cluster to avoid the low temperatures. 

This helps to warm them, but bees also use honey to stay warm in the winter since honey is thick and can act as a barrier against the temperature outside. If the cold gets too much for them, then they’ll certainly die.

Conclusion

No beekeeper wants to find their honeybees dead, but during it’s normal for bee numbers to dwindle when they aren’t being raised in controlled environments. However, with proper care, one can make sure that bees don’t die unnecessarily. 

Make sure your bees have food, stay warm, and have a queen at all times. Doing this will ensure that you still have happy, healthy bees when spring comes around.

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