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Hundreds of Dead Bees After Harvest


I got 2 phone calls yesterday. The first one was to tell me about the hundreds of dead bees outside of one of 3 flow hives 2 days after harvesting honey from 2 frames out of that hive.

All I could think of was that it had to do with something that happened during the harvest process…

The thing is that bees were staggering out of the hive, then dying on the ground with tongues extended. We figured that they must have picked up some poison from somewhere.

In the second phone call during his lunch break at work, he revealed that there was a bit of flooding and that he had previously installed some SHB baits, the type that beetles can enter but bees can’t. He proposed to me that maybe honey could have flooded the SHB baits, contaminating the honey before the bees lapped it up. Therefore through transfer of honey from bee to bee, as they do, hundreds of bees dead outside of the hive.

I agreed that that was most likely the cause of the dead bees.


Oh boy, tough lesson. Yet another reason not to use those kind of traps. Poor guy, what a shame. :cry:


Could their tongues have been extended from trying to lick up all the leaked honey and they died of exhaustion with their tongues hanging out?


That’s a good question Ed. I asked the bloke if the dead bees had their tongues out because I read on the forum that bees die with their tongue out if they die from poison.


I do’t know- but I don’t think so. When we first ever harvested a flow hive we harvested all 6 frames and all at once. We had a reasonable amount of leaking- some honey flowed right out of the front entrance. The bees bearded all over the front of the hive and you could see they were flecked with honey. They all set about licking each other- and licking up the honey at the entrance. In about two hours all that honey was gone- the bees bearded most of the day but eventually went back inside. There was no evidence of any bees dying in any significant numbers and the hive refilled and was harvested again 4 weeks later.

Since then we have never had any leaks like that. Most times we don’t see any evidence of a leak at all. If there are leaks it’s not more than a few tablespoons.


Jeff- we had an instance where we removed a flow super before winter and consolidated the hive down into the single brood box. A month later we opened the hive and found maybe 500 dead bees in the roof- all with their tongues poking out. I read around and decided that they must have been poisoned. But later I realised that I had accidentally left the QX on- and I think what happened was the hive was very crowded- bees went into the roof space through the hole- and then there was a traffic jam and some got trapped up there and starved- or maybe were asphyxiated. I’m not sure it could have been poisoning- but the QX thing seems to have been the cause- and the sudden overcrowding of the brood box when the super was removed.

Whatever it was it’s never happened again.


if it’s true that the beetle traps did that- i’d be hesitant to use such traps at all. Must be a potent insecticide. Even just offgassing etc might irritate the bees?

do you use anything like that jeff? Or do you rely on strong hives and careful management to control beetles?

Apparently the beetles are on the march and might reach Adelaide sometime in the next few years. They’ve been spotted near the border. Plus we have migratory beekeepers that go as far as Byron bay from SA. Damn! Do beetles prefer humid hot climates? I hope they don’t like our weather.


Hi Jack, the bloke phoned me a couple of hours ago. He said that the dead bees haven’t increased since yesterday. That’s good news. I don’t use any traps at all. I told him to remove the traps & do what I do.

They do like hot humid weather. Don’t be overly concerned about them Jack. You probably know by now that varroa turned up in Melbourne. THAT’S something to be concerned about.

If the migratory S.A. beekeepers are taking their hives as far away as Byron Bay, you’d have to reckon that the beetles would enter some of their hives.

Around here, the beetles are in every hive without exception. I found at least 500 in a blokes hive that I look after. I must have killed a couple of hundred. I didn’t do any more. As long as the colony remains strong, the beetles wont do any harm.


I wonder how log it will take for varroa to spread once it has a foothold? Not looking forward to that but it seems to be an inevitability- just a matter of time. We are lucky we’ve been spared this long.


Yes for sure Jack.

After posting my last message, I decided to go & checkout that blokes hive.


@Semaphore, I checked it out & as expected, hundreds of SHBs. I took Wilma with me, I removed the hive mat, all she could say was “oh my goodness”. The bees had them all corralled between the top bars & hive mat. As usual, I killed as many as I could.

I took the 4 frames that were full, replaced them with dry stickies. That’s all the inspiration I need to get me to checkout my main site in the morning.


Wow, this has been quite an event. Very sorry for that fellow beek and hope his next efforts work for the better. Also I am extremely unhappy to hear that varroa is making its way into Aus :sweat:


I got another phone call today after the bloke did an inspection. As it turned out, he didn’t have a beetle bait in that hive. So the mystery remains. He still has some bees crawling out of the hive & dying. His other 2 hives are as good as gold.

Hi Eva @Eva, we’ll wait & see about the varroa in Aus, they may have nipped it in the bud while the colony was on the ship.


This leads to a lot of to date unanswered questions in my mind. A great concern for our bio-security protection if this can happen so easily.