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Large number of dead bees NOT near a hive

Tonight my daughter found what looked to be a cluster of bees somewhere between a tennis ball and a golf ball in size in the grass next to our rhubarb, under a birch tree. Around the ball, in the grass and on and in the rhubarb were hundreds of dead bees. They covered an area of an about 80cm circle. Our closest hive is about 8-10m away.

Our first thought was something killed them on the grass but then upon seeing dead bees in the rhubarb 40-60cm off the ground, that theory seemed less likely. A second theory was possibly they had swarmed into the birch tree then died for some reason and fell from the tree? In the branch 3-4m high directly over where they lay dead was what appears to be some sort of birds nest.

It is all very mysterious. We scoured the pile of dead bees and the tiny cluster but found no queen so I can’t say if it was a swarm or just a very large number of bees. We definitely don’t use pesticides of any kind. No idea about anywhere else. They also did not appear to be fighting and none looked particularly damaged that I could see. I took pictures but they are still on my camera. Will work on them as soon as I can.

But what could have killed all these bees? Maybe they weren’t even ours? Although we have been fighting their swarming for about ten days now. I have never heard of finding piles so far from any hive. Should we be worried about the health of our other hives? Any theories?

First thing I would do is to check your hive and probably look at doing a split of the hive. If the colony is over crowded and it being your Summer it would be better for you to do a split rather than being left alone in which case they will swarm. There is a heap of info here on the site and on YouTube on how to go about it if you haven’t done it before. If you don’t want a second hive they are very saleable, but I would keep it if I were you. It doesn’t take a lot of extra time to manage a second hive.

Thinking about the bee deaths I have done a list of ‘possibles’ and then crossed of the ‘not likely’ and keep coming back to the ‘birds nest’. poisoning doesn’t fit with a compact area of the ‘death zone’, for example. So I am thinking the birds had either collected dead bees or caught them and taken them back to the nest then lost interest in them as ‘really good eating’ so ‘dumped’ them out of the nest. What I would do is destroy the nest completely. If it gets rebuilt keep pulling it down.

At my apiary I have a couple of families of butcher bird’s and magpie’s that come daily to find and eat any dead bees around the hives, so that is a good thing, but they will also take bees returning to the hives or wandering about. I accept that I can’t stop that happening and is a part of nature…
Cheers Denise, Peter

Gosh that’s strange. I’m not sure but I think you’re saying your daughter found this scene on your property? It sounds like a swarm cluster - could be your bees, or another swarm from some other beek. Or a wild swarm. Is it possible that someone saw it and decided it was a danger and sprayed it? Hard to believe someone would enter your property to do so, but I know of places with ‘management’ companies that will just chop down newly planted herbs because the hired lawn cutting crew thinks they’re weeds :flushed:

My apologies for the late reply I’ve been really busy. Yes I should have said but these bees I found are on my property and not really in a place where somebody could come in and spray. I still haven’t gotten the other photos off of my camera but I took a couple on my phone. They are unfortunately really hard to see. We found some other distressing things in one of our six hives so we’re going to have our local bee inspector come out and check things. I hope it’s just an oddity and nothing to worry about! Thank you for your replies!

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Oh dear, sorry to hear your other hives may have trouble - hope your inspector gets to the bottom of it! I’ll be curious to hear…