Beyond the path out back there is a swell sheltered spot where a beekeeper keeps his critters. I love to walk out there, no matter the season as there is always something to see. Around this time of year what you see are little holes in the snow with honey bees in them.
“What are they doing in those holes?” I wondered, gingerly making my way closer to the hives. Trying so hard not to step on any snow-bound insects. “Are they looking for food? And what is that yellowish stuff around the holes?”
Some of the bees were moving and some were so still. I could pick them up and ‘pet’ their soft sweet fuzzy bellies. I thought I’d better appeal to some experts for answers to my buzzing questions.
Shawna from Hive on the Hill in Southwest Manitoba says that, “the bees in the snow are the ones that either could not make it back to the hive or were older bees leaving the hive to die.”
Richard Underhill, a Beekeeper at Peace Bee Farm in Arkansas goes a little further. He explained that what I saw was “the honey bees’ making cleansing flights. Their behavior protects the colony by removing waste along with Nosema disease spores from the hive, protecting their nest and food storage area. Yellow-brown streaking is likely the bee feces. Some of the bees may have chilled in the air and fallen into the snow. However, many of these bees in the snow near the hives were probably old bees that died inside the hive. Honey bees remove the dead from the hive to help reduce the spread of disease. Their protection of the colony is largely based upon behaviors like you observed.”
Ah ha! so the bees that I saw were probably not going to make it back to the hive. Turns out I was in awe of bee poop and petting dead bugs. You know, the natural world is always a wonder. But thank goodness for bees. After all, they make the world’s most perfect food.