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Very Big Newbie - What's happening to my bees?!

Hi there!

Sorry for my ignorance everyone.

Its mid winter here in Sydney and only a few days ago our stingless native bee hive started pouring out these little grains (they smell slightly of honey so perhaps they’re old pollen/cells?). However a lot of the bees are acting almost drunk! Not being able to fly properly/ short distances, walking on the ground around the hive, tumbling and falling.

There was also a little cluster of them hanging out on the side of the box (only 5-6 of them) if that means anything? It’s like they were having their own secret meeting, all heads facing inwards together, whispering :smile: I’ve also found at least 10-15 dead bees in a little pot of water i had not sitting too far from the hive :’(

Is this a normal cull/clean out thing they do? It has happened before, Id just like to make sure its not something bad! :frowning_face:

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Hello Elyse, and welcome to the forum and hope others with sting less bee experience will be of more help.
I’m into honey bees and for what it is worth I am wondering if the honey is fermenting in the hive making the honey into alcohol and so the bees are actually getting drunk as you describe.
Don’t leave water laying about that is deep enough to drown even a sober bee, My watering point is full of stones that are flat so my bees can land on and have a drink without the risk of falling in.
Just a thought.

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Thankyou Peter!
Hmm thats a great thought, I never would have thought about honey fermenting!
I haven’t ever actually opened the box myself as it came from our local council and we once had some people from the council come round to split it ( I wasn’t home to watch unfortunately), I’m feeling I might need to get in there and help them out with some new interiors.
And thankyou for the water tip, I’ll ensure there’s always some protruding floating device for the little fellows.

Many thanks!

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Stingless bees are nothing like European Honey Bees. Make sure you research before “getting in there”…there’s a few big differences…

oh yeah, hence my sign up to this site :slight_smile:

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Yes, but this site is mostly focused on European Honey Bees so I’m not sure you’ll easily get your answer. The flowhive doesn’t really work with native stingless bees, as stingless bees don’t typically produce honey (sugar bags) in excess like European Honey Bees do. I hope someone here has experience with stingless bees and can give you advice though, as I also would be interested to learn simply for the sake of it ( in my part of Oz stingless bees haven’t been found and can’t be imported).

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Hi Elyse the little grains are probably just seeds from trees. They collect resin and the seeds can get stuck around the entrance as well as other debris like cocoons etc as the bees emerge.
Just check the entrance is clear but be gentle as they do close it down to a certain size to restrict air flow but they must have air. As far as I know stingless bees get most or all water from food. I have not seen any Aust Native stingless bees in our water supplies. We keep many hives and have made inspection types that we can observe progress. Because you are so far south temperature control is important. You will only see bees foraging in numbers between 18 and about 24deg C. These bees are not as robust with extremes of temperatures.Check out Russell Zabel’s web site for more info.
Good luck


Thankyou Gaz, I had a feeling someone would know something or at least be able to point me in the right direction!
Yes, I’m curious about the attraction to the pot of water as I didn’t think they’d need to necessarily ‘drink’ and it’s odd that they were out and about at 4pm - temperature only being around 13 degrees C. Perhaps they’re reacting to the cold.
Many thanks, I’ll check out the website!!

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Hey Gary, I hope @Honourablepaper realizes you have sting-less bees as well as honey bees so she will get some advice from guys like you. Good to see your back on the site.
Last summer, ok it was really a harsh one, I noticed native bees drinking water from a wet patch of concrete under a leaking tap, quite a few, which made me more aware that they are about.

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The little grains sound like they may be Cadagi seeds which have been brought back to the hive with the very sticky nectar in error. The bees then clean the seeds out of the hive as there have been cases where the brood structure collapses due to being weakened by the seeds.
I have no suggestions on the bees appearing drunk other than the possibility of poisoning.
Good luck.


@Peter48 @Ducati @Gaz Thankyou thankyou! All really insightful and a massive help.

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Hi Peter yes sometimes work takes over and then when things settle I get back to the bees.
I think in suburban Brisbane it is very favourable for all bees. Very interesting about the stingless bees drinking water. All our native bee hives are full and will be split in September.
At the moment both stingless and European bees are all over our boch choy flowers.

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Hi Elyse, I know the beekeepers in Kuringai council where you may have obtained this hive from, I can reach out to them if you like and see if they have come across this issue before… as you know its Winter and it wouldn’t be wise to open them up just yet. I have a couple of hives very similar to yours and have not seen this behaviour before. I am near Chatswood.


My native bees do exactly the same thing during winter. I just came in from examining those little balls. They don’t appear to be seeds. In the past I formed the impression that the little balls could be rolled up cocoons, possibly mixed with feces. If that IS the case, I wonder why it only appears during winter. Anyway the good news is that it’s nothing to worry about.

Like @Gaz, mine are ready to split, even before September, going by the activity of comings & goings. Plus the weight of the boxes.

@Rodderick Hiya, oh that would be lovely if you have time. It would be interesting to know if its normal or I do have a problem. They’ve stopped acting ‘drunk’ and are now just moving really slow, no flying in or out of the hive, just walking around and grouping in small groups on the side of the hive.
I’m in Pymble, so same conditions I’d assume. I’m worried now if you haven’t seen it before!

update: they’re no longer drunk. theres little to no flying and they’re simply walking around the place slowly. upon watching the bees I’ve noticed it’s like they’re cleaning each others face as theyre all together in their little bunches. they were also grouping on a nearby leaf on the group. just so odd!

When you say “little to no flying” it’s worth remembering that TC’s don’t go out to fly unless it’s 19degC. If it’s threatening to rain, they’ll probably stay home, going by what I observed the other day. It was 20deg. & still no lying. It was overcast & it looked like it was going to rain.

Today, it’s 21deg, the sun’s shining & the bees are working flat out.