No beekeeper wants to find dead bees in their apiary, but it is part of the cycle of life. Bees only have a lifespan of a couple of months, shorter if they sting, are subjected to harsh conditions like cold, are mishandled, or fall prey to predators. But what does it mean if a dead bee has its tongue sticking out?
If you find a dead bee that has its tongue sticking out, it indicates that the bee died from poisoning. Likely, this is a result of toxicity from insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, or other yard and garden chemicals that bees may encounter when foraging for flowers and nectar to take to the hive for honey.
Why do bees die? Keep reading to learn more about the interesting life and death of bees!
Poisons, Pesticides, and Bees
If your goal is to have a pristine and perfect lawn, it will likely be at the cost of pollinators, like bees. Do you know how important bees are to the environment?
Not to mention the food supply- without bees, many crops would not be available, and animals would starve. In turn, people that eat these animals may also go hungry. It is simply not possible to keep bees safe if you are using chemicals and poisons on your property.
If you are unsure if there is a problem with pesticides or poisons, watch how the bees act. Bees exposed to these toxins will act oddly, such as shaking or flying erratically.
Bees that have been poisoned may not be able to fly or they demonstrate increased aggression. Typically, exposure to these poisons will kill bees- which is truly a shame. One such prevalent poison that kills bees is Glyphosate, which is an herbicide used widely to prevent weeds on lawns, grass, and gardens.
Herbicides and Bees
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, a popular herbicide that is extremely harmful to bees. Glyphosate is a crop desiccant that inhibits certain enzymes in the plant, effectively killing weeds.
This was discovered in 1970 and has been marketed widely since 1974 under the name Roundup. This product is a slow killer of bees, clinging to the insect and gradually suffocating it to death. If you want to protect bees, never use Roundup products on your property- and never spray it near a hive.
Did you know that you could kill an entire colony overnight by spraying Roundup just once? Even if the bee never comes in contact with the Roundup, the glyphosate will slowly and painfully kill them. There are other options that are less detrimental to these very-important pollinators.
Other Reasons Bees Die
When it comes to the life expectancy of a bee, Drones only live a couple of months and the queens a bit longer. While chemicals and poisons kill bees, the truth is that bees die naturally all the time. Honeybees are vulnerable to many things that can cause their demise, from cold weather to predatory animals.
Dead bees lying on the ground near a hive could indicate nothing more than that they died from natural causes. Certainly, a pile of dead bees is the reason for concern, but when you find deceased worker bees scattered around near the hive, it is likely due to nature.
Since a typical hive can house around 50,000 bees at a time, it is not uncommon to find a large number of bees dead around the hive. It is not uncommon to lose a thousand bees in a single day!
When bees die inside of their hive, the other bees will remove and carry the deceased out of the hive. This helps to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of the hive- bees are remarkably clean and hard-working!
What You Can Do
There are things that you- and everyone- can do to prevent bees from dying. Bees are an integral part of life; treat them kindly. The first thing that you can do is to never use products with glyphosate on your property, including Roundup. Read labels to ensure you are not using products with this ingredient, which is a known bee-killer.
Engage your neighbors in a conversation about your beekeeping. This may help encourage them to use bee-friendly products and not any containing glyphosate.
Even when glyphosate does not immediately kill a bee, it can greatly impair them, prevent them from flying, compromise fertility, and cause them a slow, painful demise. It can also present risks to the entire colony.
Since you can’t control the weather, do what you can to keep bees safe when it is cold out. Never open or inspect a hive when it is under 50-degrees Fahrenheit outside. Make sure that bees have a water source near the hive, so they don’t risk going further away and drinking from potentially polluted or poisoned water sources.
Position the hive near ponds or lakes, when possible, or keep a clean mason jar filled with water beside the hive for the bees.
Since most bees are vulnerable to a fatal parasite called varroa, do something to deter this from impacting your apiary.
Dust each hive with powdered or confectioner’s sugar by removing the frames and carefully sprinkling each one with it. Only dust the sugar on the capped honeycomb cells, not the open cells. Repeat weekly to control the varroa parasite.
Make sure to leave your bees enough honey to get through the winter, to prevent starvation and loss of bees. If honey is in short supply, provide them with some sweet syrup to get them by. Each hive requires around ten frames of honey to feed the colony and survive a typical winter.
Protect your bees and avoid pesticides containing Glyphosate at all costs. If you find a dead bee with its tongue sticking out, it died from poisoning.
Find the root of the issue to ensure other bees do not also meet their demise when foraging for flowers. Finding dead bees outside of the hive is common- they have a very short lifespan- but pesticides and poisons can kill an apiary, and other pollinators, causing critical damage to the ecosystem.
Bees are an integral part of food production and supplies globally. Protect bees by using alternative methods to control pests and weeds- and be concerned if you find a poisoned bee.