Finding Dead Bees Covered in Pollen​

In recent years the bee population has been under threat. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that finding dead pollen-covered bees raises alarm bells. 

There are various reasons behind this occurrence, understanding what it means can determine whether or not it's a cause for concern.

A Bee’s Lifespan

Bees’ nests grow throughout the seasons and have on average 50K workers collecting pollen. These are the bees that you’ll most likely discover in your gardens at home or in the forest. 

There are in the region of 20K different species of bees. The most well-known is the honey bee which lifespan ranges from 28 to 56 days — during the warmer months.

Why Do I Find Dead Bees? 

One of the main reasons is that they are living in your area. Their hive may be close to your house or place of work, which is why you see them so frequently. 

When they become lethargic, they like to stay in one place — not far from their food source. As a result, you will find them close to plants or even near your flower pots. 

Another reason is the time of year. In the growing season, pesticides are frequently used on crops — bees often die because of feeding on agricultural land. They also work harder in the warmer months — deemed short-lived summer bees. 

Greatest Threats to Bees 

  • Pesticides
  • Genetically modified crops (GMOs)
  • Climate change 
  • Loss of habitat 
  • Bees forced into service; monoculture 
  • Pests, diseases, viruses and mold

How can we help them? And what does it have to do with pollen? 


When bees are fertilizing the flowers, pollination occurs. This not only helps the flowers to reproduce, but it also gives the bees more flowers to gain nectar from. This symbiotic relationship keeps both species alive, if one were to perish, the other would follow shortly. 

Most of the time, whether alive or dead, you will spot bees carrying pollen — due to them foraging for nectar and picking up pollen in the process.

pollinating bee

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

This phenomenon occurs when the majority of worker bees abandon the hive, leaving behind a few bees to care for the queen with a substantial amount of food. While it once posed a threat to the colonization of bees, this “state of emergency” has since been downgraded. 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the number of losses due to CCD has dwindled in recent years. As a result, colony collapse disorder may not be the main factor for dead bees covered in pollen. 

Older Bees

The main reason you find dead bees covered in pollen is that it died from old age.

Reasons They May Have Perished

  • Cold weather 
  • Foraging too far from home 
  • Exhaustion 

Most of the time, the lower temperatures and extreme weather conditions become too much for the older bees, and they are unable to fly back to their hive. As a result, they give up and forgo their lives for the sake of their queen, so that she and the younger bees may continue.  

The last task that worker bees perform in their life cycle is foraging for food. This is highly strenuous for them, bees in a sense, work themselves into the ground. Due to their feelings of enervation, they can’t return. 

If you do find a bee on the ground, don’t assume that they are dead and carry on. It could be a case of tiredness. Mix some sugar water (30/70 percent sugar/water) and place it next to them. Monitor the bee to make sure it is stable enough to venture back to the hive.

If only resting, when warm they will fly off back to their colony.

Why Do They Have Pollen On? 

We’ve seen that worker bees only live up to eight weeks. In the latter stages of their lives, they are sent out to forage for food — which includes pollen. If they were busy working at the time of their demise, naturally, bees would be covered with remnants of pollen.  

This coverage does depend on the season and the plant population within the surrounding area of the hive. 

Dead Bees in Large Numbers

If at any point you see an overwhelming number of dead bees in one area, make sure you tell someone. These may have died from natural circumstances, or insecticides could have poisoned them.

If you have concerns over dying bees, get in touch with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the details: 

What Does This Mean? 

Finding dead pollen-covered bees is usually nothing to worry about. Nature has taken its course — while gathering food, the time came for the bee to leave the earth. 

Remember, if you find a bee covered in pollen that looks lifeless, check to make sure it’s not exhausted. Taking two minutes out of your day may save the life of a tired bee.

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