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Drones acting drunk & dying en masse

2640 Views 19 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  delber
Over the last week, I've noticed something truly bizarre; need some thoughts on how to troubleshoot/figure this out. Every evening, around 4:30-5:30ish, I see a large quantity of drones - 20, 25 or more - doing a drunken dance of death in my yard, about 20 feet from the hive. They stagger around, clean their antennae, fall over, and eventually, die. I don't see any other bees, just drones. The hives seem otherwise perfectly healthy.

Example video at

Any ideas?
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they likely went out in a blaze of glory:

welcome to beesource j. consider adding your general location to your profile, it helps a lot when it comes to replying to your queries here.
Thanks, updated - I'm in Austin, Texas.
The video is similar to what I'm seeing, but my guys aren't in a pile - they are spread in a line across about 20 feet. And, they aren't dead - they are dying. Real likelihood of post-sex-death like that - drunk, floppy, in a row?

the best way to tell is by picking them up and look for yellowish oozing from the underside of their tail end.
Nothing like that, on any of them.
when i see drones returning to a hive only to crawl around and die like that some but not all will show evidence of mating. i assume the ones with their anatomy still intact wore themselves to death trying.

it's a fairly common thing to see, especially during prime mating/swarming season, which i'm guessing austin tx is just now getting into.
Was that a spider jumping onto and off the Drone?

Any chance they might have a mite chewing away at their bellies? They seem to have abdomens curled down, butt dragging.
Was that a spider jumping onto and off the Drone?

And getting at it's underbelly. Is the spider working on the sick or making the injury?
The spider was just a random guest in the video. The other bees do not have spiders. They are curling down and dragging their butts, and also cleaning their antennae. I will try to take better photos/videos later this week.

Thank you -
How about a mite catch and flip over mite check.
When I first saw that blur, I thought it might be a worker trying to push the Drone off the landing board. Although, I have never seen them do that in that manner. I kept rewinding and pausing the video until I caught it just right.
I think the spider was trying to take advantage of the injured Drone and was testing it to see how weak it was.
I agree with the suggestions about him being injured or mite problems.

I have never witnessed this myself but my gut reaction is what squarepeg suggested. It takes a huge amount of energy for a drone to outrace his competition and catch the queen. Even the unsucessful run out of energy and would need to be fed or die.
Virus or old age?
Just flip it over and see if it has a mite on its belly. I found a drone dying in my yard once and examined it to find a mite on its underside. As soon as the drone died, the mite fell off.
I'm not declaring victory yet, but: prior to all of this, we had a porta-potty installed for some work being done in the back yard. We capped the vent of it so nothing could go inside; there were no dead drones today.
They treat it with chemicals, so that would explain dead bees.
BUT - it doesn't explain drones only.

If I'm right, and that was the cause, any insight into why it would be drones only?

Also did a check of the hives. Nothing gross happening, very healthy and happy.
Since drones do not forage, not even for water, I'm not sure how this could be the source of the problem. But who knows?
Didn't realize they don't even drink. It must be a very exhausting life.

@squarepeg, this happens only at approximately 5pm each night. Would "dying of trying" make sense only at a certain time of day?
yes, for some reason all the drones seem to 'time' their gathering to and returning from the drone congregation areas or dca's.

i.e. they appear to leave and return from multiple hives in a given yard and most likely other nearby locations at the same times of day.

the 5 pm time frame makes sense for this time in the season as it represents them being out for and taking advantage of the warmer part of the day.

if you haven't found any yet showing evidence of mating it could mean there just aren't any virgins out and about yet.

if this is indeed what is happening with your drones, those dying are likely the first ones to have emerged coming out of winter and are just getting too old to keep on going as odfrank suggested.
I have had drones die outside of a hive before. It was a strong hive that had plenty of stores and 2 - 3 weeks later a major dearth hit that I wasn't aware of and the hive was starving. I was able to see the workers kicking the drones out at that time. How is the hive for stores? also is there capped drone brood in the hive at this point?

The porta-potty thought. . . The workers wouldn't die near the hive they'd fly away if they were sick. Only the drones would stick around the hive only for the worker bees to take them out. It may have been a cause but I'm not sure how. If the workers were going in to get water if they came out to put it in the frames then the drones would eat it?
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