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Thread: what eats bees?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    tulsa, ok, usa
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    Angry

    I checked my hives today and found that one colony was dead. Their bodies were in a cluster in the upper chamber, right under their bee
    candy, and between two frames with honey. But they were dead.

    When I examined them I noticed to my surprise that many of them had been beheaded!
    What the ---?!

    Upon closer examination I found others that weren't beheaded, but their thoraxes had been completely hollowed out, from the anterior,
    as if something had eaten out their entire thorax, leaving the head and abdomen barely connected.

    I examined other dead bees with no noticeable physical damage.

    What would do this? Last time I examined them the colony appeared quite healthy, about 2 to 3 weeks ago. (although I am a novice, so....)

    Thanks,
    Richard Higgs aka radioman, Tulsa

  2. #2
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    >When I examined them I noticed to my surprise that many of them had been beheaded!
    What the ---?!

    >Upon closer examination I found others that weren't beheaded, but their thoraxes had been completely hollowed out, from the anterior,
    as if something had eaten out their entire thorax, leaving the head and abdomen barely connected.

    There are many debris beetles that will eat dead bees. Mice will kill and eat bees, but probably not so much the way yours sound like.

    I wouldn't think the debris beetles would be active in the winter, but I don't know what your weather is like.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    I dung know anything about debris beetles. Could fire ants be an outside possibility?

  4. #4
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    Dec 2004
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    tulsa, ok, usa
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    Michael and Beemaninsa,
    Thanks for your replies. The weather here has been very up and down the past few weeks --from the low teens to the upper sixties. Typical for December in Oklahoma. I suppose that does allow the possibility of beetles (or fireants) eating the bees after they'd died. I admit I hadn't thought of that. I assumed that something had killed them by eating them. This leaves open the question, though, of what had killed them.

  5. #5
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    Oh, Beemaninsa... I just got your dung beetle pun. lol.

  6. #6
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    Post

    Sounds to me like it might bee hornets. In michigan we have some called bald faced hornets and they will kill a hive by cutting off the bee heads but normally they take the bodies back to their hive to feed their larva.
    Clint
    Clinton Bemrose<br />just South of Lansing Michigan<br />Beekeeping since 1964

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Beverly, Mass
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    Post

    How many were dead? Was the hive weak? I had one
    hive attacked by a nest of hornets(big white Headed ones). The hornets were eating the abdomens leaving the rest. It was a strong hive and they(NWC) did a good fighting them off. I watched it for a while, put entrance reducer and sucked them with a vacuum, one by one. There must have been 30 or 40 of them. Dead workers everywhere, it was going on for a few days.

    Having a strong hive is always a key!

  8. #8
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    Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
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    It sounds like a hive which has died out, and scavengers have been through the remains. Would hornets be active in your area at this time of year? When did you last see this hive alive?
    RSBrenchley@aol.com
    Birmingham UK

  9. #9
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    I suppose hornets are a possibility. I've never really had a problem with them here. Just an occasional one trying to steal honey when I'm working a hive. But it seems like they would be gone for the winter even in OK.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
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    Richard,

    I agree with the scavenger suggestions. I’m going to assume you meant to say “the abdomens were hollowed” out as opposed to the thorax. Hollowed out adbomens and chewed off bees with head and thorax left behind, usually indicate there is a mouse or other small varmint snacking on the good tasty parts of dead bees. Probably invaded the colony after it was dead. Check for mouse in the bottom chamber and bring equipment inside before the varmints destroy the comb.

  11. #11
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    If I may,I forgot to add,,,, Clustering under the candy “may” indicate starvation, check for honey stores in contact with the cluster. I would imagine that for Tulsa you should have at the very minimum a total of 8 or 9 full frames of honey still left at this time of year. If at least that amount of stores are present, and the cluster grapefruit size or less, I might suspect a weakening and dwindling of the colony caused by disease, possibly varroa earlier in the year, and they only managed to stay alive till now.

  12. #12
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    My girls were the victims of bald faced hornets this past fall, and I lost 5 of my 6 hives before the cold weather set it, but, like Michael said, it's rather late in the year for hornets to be active.

  13. #13
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    Thanks to all for your replies. I've just discovered this forum, and I must say it's a great source for help and info.

    I last saw this hive alive, and apparently thriving on 20 December. At that time they had about 5 frames of honey and bee candy, they were very active, with a good population. Confession: on that day I moved 2 frames of uneaten honey from a hive nextdoor, which had just died out as well, and had been invaded by wax moths. Whatever had killed that colony, I may have moved it into this hive and killed it as well? The cluster in each case was dead in place, with some bees seeming to have dived headlong into cells to die with their behinds sticking out. Others just dead in place. In the first hive to die out, there was no evidence of them having been eaten.

    In each case the colony had dwindled considerably.

    By the way, I'm a novice, so may have my bee anatomy mixed up, but I believe I do mean the thorax. The furry area right behind the head, which holds the wings.

    As for whether hornets are active this time of year, I really don't know, with the weather being so highly variable.

    All in all, based on your replies, scavengers sounds like a reasonable possibility for the explanation of the carnage, but not the actual cause of death.

  14. #14
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    Tia, bald faced hornets can do a pretty good number on a colony, but generally healthy colonies can endure the onslaught. I would 'suspect' the colonies were weakened somewhat for some other reason first ie. Stress, Disease etc.

    Richard, that is a strange pheromone you describe. I do have a back-up diagnosis for you. Can I try again? [img]smile.gif[/img]

    I figured it out!!!

    I might hypothesis that it may be tracheal mite related. January is the time when beek's in the north will generally see more colony falures due to Tracheal mite. The first thoracic spiracle near the wing base where the female tracheal mite enters and lays her eggs may have been weakened from the infesting mite, and bee sickened and died first ending up on the bottomboard where you are now discovering the TM infected mites. This is why you are not finding eaten out thoraxes up in the comb as those bees survived the TM or were not infested to a great degree.

    Wings might fall off an infested dead be quicker on the moist bottomboard, and body my also tend to detonate faster at the point of infestation causing the hollowed out thorax symptom you are describing. I would not suspect a predator eating the thorax, as everyone knows the most tasty part on a bee is the abdomen. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    PS. Wax moth needs heat and time to destroy a colony. I would suspect that you wax moth problems started way back in late August.

  15. #15
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    Post

    Thanks, Joe, for your well-thought-out diagnosis. I'll check for the possibility of Tracheal mites.
    --Richard

  16. #16
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    Sep 2003
    Location
    Bemidji, Minnesota, USA
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    Post

    Hi hotlands and all,
    As to the damage to the bee carcasses on the bottom board. My GUESS would be a shrew. I have seen very small shrews that can slip right into the hive through the entrance reducer. The ones I've seen usually live under the hive that they are entering. They are carnivorous, and could leave the evidence like you are seeing.
    Have a good day,
    RayB

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