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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Unexplained Bee Death

Yesterday I was moving equipment in my backyard when I glanced over at my one living hive.  The weather has been extraordinarily cold for Atlanta for the last three days.  Last winter, I think I wore my winter coat on maybe two days total.  I've had my coat on for the last three days and for most days of the last week.  We had a couple of afternoons in the high 60s, but that was as warm as it got.

Weatherspark.com says this about November in Atlanta:

"The month of November is characterized by rapidly falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 68°F to 59°F over the course of the month, exceeding 77°F or dropping below 47°F only one day in ten.  Daily low temperatures range from 40°F to 49°F, falling below 30°F or exceeding 59°F only one day in ten."

The temperatures for the last three days have been lower than typical as per the above paragraph:

November 28:  High  61
                         Low  27
November 29:  High  54
                         Low  34
November 30:  High  54
                         Low  34

So I look over at the one living hive and all around it I see dead bees - probably about 100 of them.   It's not unusual to see dead bees around a living hive in winter.  When it's warm, the bees in the hive carry out the dead but drop them near the hive rather than fly away from the hive with the bodies.  But these bees had pollen in their pollen baskets so they were flying into the hive when they died.

Does anyone have any idea what would kill bees flying this close to home loaded with pollen?  

I don't know if the whole hive is dead - I opened the hive top above the inner cover where I have a feeder and added some syrup to the feeder.  One bee came up to partake and a couple of hive beetles.  

I'd love theories about what this means.  Seems late in the year for a pesticide kill and doesn't look like the pile of bees I had at the Morningside hive where there was a definite pesticide kill.  

So naturally I wondered about temperature.  Did it drop precipitously and the bees were caught unaware?  We had cold high winds a couple of days ago as the temperature dropped, but then they wouldn't be right beside the hive, would they, but rather would have been blown away.


  1. I have seen that exact scenario happen when a sunny unseasonably warm day becomes a cold day quickly and the hive the girls are returning to is in the shade. It's like they are fine as long as the sun is shining on them but entering the shade drops em like a rock or they stop to try and warm up but just can't make it.

  2. The good news is that the hive itself is alive and fine. The temperatures were up today and the bees were buzzing in and out like crazy....so those that died did not mean the demise of the hive. In Atlanta, warm days can become cold quite quickly and my backyard is in the shade by 4 PM.

  3. I can imagine I see more violent temperature shifts to cold snaps up here than you generally do down there. I have observed foragers with full pollen sacks come back to the hive and just hang out on the landing board during Winter until they die. hey don't even seem to try and enter the hive. I have no clue why but it happens frequently on nice days that then turn cold quickly as the sun sets in late afternoon. Never an amount significant enough to kill off the hive fortunately.

    It's almost like they say "why bother" and just give up.

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  5. Anonymous4:22 PM

    It was a intelligence test for the bees.
    They found the way out, but could not find the way in.
    In my opinion wasp individuals are more intelligent.

  6. Linda, if it were pesticide, then you would have found more dead bees than expected on the bottom board, inside the hive as well, right? What pollen would they have been gathering in your area? I know you are much warmer there but I would think this is a pollen dearth time nonetheless?


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