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Bees Died with their Tongues Sticking Out: Pesticides?


We inspected our hive the other day- and found a few hundred (or more) dead bees on top of the inner cover. I assumed the bees had taken to dumping their dead workers upstairs as we had left the hole uncovered… Afterwards - Looking at a photo of them I noticed many/most had their tongues sticking out. I googled- and saw this was listed as a symptom of pesticide poisoning?

The hive appeared to be otherwise very healthy- innumerable bees covering every frame thickly, brood at all stages, tonnes of capped honey, pollen, etc.

By way of background- the last inspection a few weeks ago we removed the Flow super and forced all the bees down to the one box- making it very crowded. We have found dead bees on the inner cover before but never this many. All of these bees accumulated in just a few weeks. We are coming into winter now.


Sadly, it sounds very much like pesticides. Are the neighbors amenable to letting you know when they are going to spray, so that you can shut the bees in for a day? Does your local authority have a registration process (mine does, and it is free) so that you can be notified of spraying? With the number of bees, I am guessing that it is residential spraying rather than commercial, but there is no real way to know. So sorry for your bees.


@Dawn_SD the hive is located in a coastal suburban environment and the bees go far and wide- it would be hard to know of any spraying. It is sad to see the poor bees like that.

Given that nothing like this occurred in the previous 6 months- and this occurred sometime immediately after we removed the flow super: is it possible this mass death ‘event’ wasn’t pesticides but was somehow caused by the super removal and forcing all the bees down to the one box? Are there causes other than chemical for bees to die with their tongues out?

Also: would the bees have gone to the roof to die- or have been carried up there?

so many questions! :wink:


I very much doubt it, given the neurological appearance of the bees (proboscis sticking out is pretty convincing for insecticide). You can get dead bees tested for insecticides theoretically, but they need to be frozen and shipped soon after dying or the insecticide will disappear from the bodies.


Hi Michelle, I forgot about the hole in the inner cover & the gable roof when I gave my comment on the other thread.

That’s sad to see all those dead bees. I’ve never seen anything like that before. But then I’ve never seen such a configuration of a lid until the flow hive appeared.

The bees usually dispose of the dead out the entrance. If it is pesticide, lets just hope it’s a one off occurrence. I would be closing off that hole & put a spacer under the inner cover to give the bees more room above the frames or go with my other suggestion.

Good luck with that, cheers

PS, a lot of dead bees above the inner cover like that at the right time of year in a SHB area will certainly give something for the beetle to lay eggs in & possibly cause a hive to become slymed out.


I am also in agreement with Jeff on this one, close that hole off so that you can monitor the behaviour of your bees at the entrance, as per the NSW DPI site on bee poisoning, this is what to look for:

  • Dead adult bees typically, but not always, have their wings unhooked and at odd angles to their body
  • Proboscis is fully extended and their hind pair of legs outstretched behind them
  • In severe cases, dead adult bees will be present inside the hive between the frames and on the hive floor
  • Lack of foraging bees
  • Live adult bees may move slowly or behave abnormally, showing signs of paralysis

There is more information on the link below with some tips on how to minimise the damage, but hopefully the damage is only limited to the dead bees in your roof.


yep- we have covered the hole after that inspection- we meant to do it before but forgot. Mum has had a look at the hive and there are not many dead bees out the front- so hopefully it was a one off event- perhaps some foragers got caught out in some local spraying? Collateral damage… bloody indiscriminate pesticides!

Still a little perplexed as to why they all ended up in the roof- in one corner- neatly piled- I am guessing other bees did this?


It may have been too cold over the last few days to venture out the front so they put them in the attic… :grinning:


Just wondering if you are in South Australia? Semaphore? Recently at a property near Goodwood SA, the state government left me a card saying they had just sprayed my backyard with ‘‘Naturalure’’ a fruit fly bait. Without my permission. Luckily my bees are not anywhere near this property. The calling card they left behind says that it is certified ‘‘organic’’, but after seeing your poor bees, I looked up what the specs are for this organic pesticide and it says it is ‘‘dangerous to bees’’. http://msdssearch.dow.com/PublishedLiteratureDAS/dh_08ce/0901b803808cef16.pdf?filepath=au/pdfs/noreg/012-10328.pdf&fromPage=GetDoc


yes- we are in Adelaide- I rang the port council- and spoke to their contract pest controllers. They say there has been no spraying in the period when this occurred… People buy those terrible sprays for controlling bugs OUTSIDE the house. perhaps the bees fell foul of such awful indiscriminate practices… Let the bugs live I say.


The notice I received in Goodwood is from the State Biosecurity SA so the council would probably be unaware. The phone number for more info is 1 300 666 010.


I notice that you still have your excluder on, they didn’t get trapped above the excluder when you took the flow hive super off and die from starvation, bees that die from starvation, or overheating die with their tongs out, they also are usually dried out and crispy. Check the excluder to see if its obstructed.


@Thebeelady ooh- I hope that’s not what happened? Though it’s a toss u: poisoning- or- starve? Hard to say… Didn’t think of the queen excluder- it was partially blocked in places with wax. Perhaps immediately after we removed the flow super the hive was so crowded that bees somehow got trapped upstairs? We removed the excluder after that inspection- we should have removed it before and blocked that upper hole.