Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dead Bees in Honeycomb

Last week one of the ladies that works in our building brought me a section of honeycomb.  She said that bees began building it on the exterior of her house over the summer and then mysteriously disappeared after a couple of weeks.  The comb was in a protected area under the eaves of her home and was inaccessible until high winds blew it down last week. 

When she brought me the comb it was obvious that the bees had not all disappeared.  Instead, many of them could be found dead, facing headfirst into the comb.

After doing a little research I found out that finding a comb like this is an indication that the bees starved.  This is usually found in hives that did not have enough honey stores to survive the winter, but starvation among honeybees can happen at any time of the year.  It is possible in summer when periods of drought cause flowers to temporarily shut down pollen and nectar production.

I wanted to preserve the comb with the dead bees inside it, but unfortunately many of the bees were decaying and smelled rather funky.  So I spent the better part of an hour plucking individual bees from the cells of the honeycomb with a pair of tweezers.  Some of the bees came out whole, while other broke into pieces and had to be teased out carefully.

At the end this is what I ended up with.

I plan on making a frame for the comb, with plexiglass on both sides so you can see the structure of the comb with the light shining through it.


  1. So disappointing to see the state of these bees. Very interesting honeycomb. Nice that you are preserving their hard work. Can you bring the finished piece to one of our Wild Ones Native Plant meetings?

  2. I should have it framed up by the next meeting. If I remember it, I will bring it along.