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View Full Version : Coffee grounds drive bees nuts. Is it good for them?



dandelion
03-19-2005, 11:20 AM
I noticed that my bees go nuts for the coffee in my compost pile. They dive into it in hords and pay no attention to any other scraps. My question is what is there in the coffee that they seem to appreciate so much? And then, is coffee good for them?
Could it be that something they want so badly is unhealthy for them? I don't think so...
And the association of coffee growing in tropical lands were mites resistant africanized bees survive... comes to mind. Could it be this simple?
Give it a try... Just place your paper coffee filter from yesterday with the (dry is best) coffee grounds in it, close to the hives and see what I mean...
Alejandro

Sundance
03-19-2005, 11:44 AM
Sounds wild A..... I'll give it a try. I am puzzeled at what they get out of it. Maybe a caffeine buzz??

Michael Bush
03-19-2005, 11:54 AM
Are they rolling in it? My guess is they are wanting pollen and are willing to settle for any dust they can find.

Barry
03-19-2005, 02:24 PM
I agree with Mike, he know's most everything smile.gif

This behavior is also seen with sawdust. I first saw this 7 years ago in the early spring. I had a pile of sawdust in the backyard from my table saw and the bees were rolling around in it in a frenzy. Early pollen substitute.

- Barry

Michael Bush
03-19-2005, 02:36 PM
I HAVE wondered if maybe rolling in dust (especially dust of no nutritive value) has to do with getting rid of varroa mites or even Tracheal mites. But you often see them gather the grain dust, saw dust etc.

dandelion
03-19-2005, 03:16 PM
They don't just roll on the coffee. Even though it's hard to tell what they are doing it, they are not packing it into balls on their legs. They seem to eat it. And they surely take it away, at least the very fine powder like coffee. They only leave the grounds that look more like sand than powder.
I did not squish a bee to see if they carry it in their guts, but where else would they carry it...
I did not notice either coffee trails in the entrance of the hives, as you see pollen when they carry it in their legs.
And finally I did not open the hives to see if I can figure out if they are regurgitating it somewhere. It's too early here to mess with my hives.
Alejandro

Jim Fischer
03-19-2005, 05:03 PM
Is the coffee by chance a brand of coffee that
includes chicory in the ingredients (New Orleans
style coffee)? Are the grounds damp or dry?

Bees can often be found at salt licks intended
for cattle, so you may be seeing the bees reacting
to the coffee grounds in the same manner as they
do salt. (It is claimed by a few sources that
this "need" for salt is a brood-rearing related
issue, but I have not tried to look at this in
any detail, so I don't know much about the
chemistry.)

If they were mistaking it for pollen, they would
be collecting it like pollen. They aren't, so
they aren't.

What happens if you set out a pan of coffee
grounds near the compost pile, and set out a 2nd
pan with coffee grounds in a bit of water?
(This will at least allow you to closely examine
and perhaps photograph the behavior.)

The idea behind the "in water" offering is to
see if the bees suck up the coffee-flavored water,
which would verify that the bees want the chemical
(or the scent) rather than the substance itself.

dandelion
03-19-2005, 05:31 PM
They go really crazy for the dry grounds from a day or two ago. Not so much for the still damp grounds coffee from the morning, so it seems that they like eating it rather than just sucking it... Hummm!?
The coffee we drink is regular coffee with nothing added. Most often is store bought Starbucks, House blend, Java or Sumatra finely ground daily on an electric coffee grinder, and used in a regular coffee maker. I did not try to offer unused finely ground coffee, which of course would have much more concentration of whatever they seem to like. Nor did I try to offer a pan with water and grounds on it or even just liquid coffee (a double expresso, perhaps?).

dandelion
03-19-2005, 05:34 PM
I did photograph. Is there a way to post the picture here?
If anybody wants to see it, email me and I send a jpg file.
Take care,
Alejandro

dandelion
03-19-2005, 05:39 PM
Oh, also... I do have a salt block as the ones they use for cattle, same distance from the hives as the compost pile (about 300 feet), but I never saw them on that salt block yet.

John Seets
03-25-2005, 07:20 AM
My thought is as a constituent in propolis production. Nothing to back this notion up, tho.

I've also seen the bees working the seed dust in the bird feeders.

John Seets
03-25-2005, 07:43 AM
Info about bees and salt:

This comes from Dr. Bob Noel (one of the originators of Honey-B-Healthy) regarding use of salt in wintergreen grease patties for varroa control:

"The idea for using salt came to us from Monte Smith, Alberta, Canada. We placed 5 small patties (about 2 ozs. each) on top of each brood chamber and a ½" [1.27 cm] “roll” across the entrance, about 3/4" [1.9 cm] back in (rain will wash it away). Adding salt to the patties doubles the rate of consumption by the bees; we used to change the patties monthly; with the addition of salt, the patties are often gone in 7-10 days. We believe the addition of salt enhances the effectiveness of the patties;..."

ref: http://www.hereintown.net/~jkahl/sare.htm


However, on the down side of salt:

Piskovoi et al. (1964) found that common table salt, sodium chloride, in levels as low as 0.125% in sugar syrup, caused dysentery and mortality in caged bees. Bees in overwintering colonies with honey stores containing 0.35 to 1.16% salt were dying prematurely.

ref: http://www.beesource.com/pov/usda/abjfeb1977.htm

Jim Fischer
03-25-2005, 11:00 AM
I don't see this as "upside/downside", I see
this as clear evidence of the need for a
specific approach to "salt delivery".

Making salt available in patties allows the bees
to take only what they "want", and seems to have
tangible positive results.

But putting salt in the feed is a bad idea,
as it does not allow the bees to stop taking salt
when they have "had enough", as it is in every
drop of feed.

So, the message here is don't "force" salt on the
bees, as it appears to be toxic in high doses,
but making it available for them to enjoy at their
own pace seems to be a good thing.

Barry Digman
03-25-2005, 04:54 PM
I mailed my brother for some input. He's a hot shot commercial coffee roaster. I recall him talking about the sugars in coffee that carmelize and impart different qualities depending on roasting time and temperatures. Perhaps they can detect this sugar?

nursebee
03-25-2005, 05:02 PM
I read the post to my wife, She reminds me of someone commenting somewhere of burning burlap bags that had coffee that made bees angry.

Barry Digman
03-25-2005, 05:44 PM
My brother is guessing the same thing as I guessed...


"Sugar. Roasted arabica has 38% polysaccharides by dry weight. pp.98 of Illly "Espresso Coffee". Coffee taste is derived from the carmelization of complex sugars. Roasted coffee contains around 900 identified chemicals but I'm guessing they are going for the sugars."

dandelion
04-17-2005, 06:57 PM
I doubt it's the sugars, even admitting they are there. The reason for my doubts is simply that the bees don't seem to be interested in finding sugar. I even offered honey to them on nice days, from some frames of dead colonies and they totally ignored it, diving for the coffee ionstead.
Since I place the original message on coffee though, I have to say that the bees lost interest in it. They are bringing real pollen like there is no tomorrow, so I'm more inclined to lean towards the theory of them "thinking" it was pollen. Now that the real pollen is available in large quantities, the interest for the coffee colapsed.
Who knows...???

FordGuy
08-05-2007, 10:32 PM
Is the coffee by chance a brand of coffee that
includes chicory in the ingredients (New Orleans
style coffee)? Are the grounds damp or dry?

Bees can often be found at salt licks intended
for cattle, so you may be seeing the bees reacting
to the coffee grounds in the same manner as they
do salt. (It is claimed by a few sources that
this "need" for salt is a brood-rearing related
issue, but I have not tried to look at this in
any detail, so I don't know much about the
chemistry.)

If they were mistaking it for pollen, they would
be collecting it like pollen. They aren't, so
they aren't.

What happens if you set out a pan of coffee
grounds near the compost pile, and set out a 2nd
pan with coffee grounds in a bit of water?
(This will at least allow you to closely examine
and perhaps photograph the behavior.)

The idea behind the "in water" offering is to
see if the bees suck up the coffee-flavored water,
which would verify that the bees want the chemical
(or the scent) rather than the substance itself.


jim or it could mean they were thirsty

Hobie
08-06-2007, 11:38 AM
I HAVE wondered if maybe rolling in dust (especially dust of no nutritive value) has to do with getting rid of varroa mites or even Tracheal mites.

It works for cats, dogs, birds, etc. Interesting thought!

knadai
08-07-2007, 09:20 PM
Check with your queen supplier. If you ordered a Starline, they may have sent a Starbucks instead.

:cool: