Why Are There So Many Bee Droppings on the Outside of my Hives?
Ask the Expert!
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Kathie of Cleveland writes:
I am an urban beekeeper in Cleveland. We over-wintered our bees in two deeps. The bees largely remained in the top box all winter. We have had a cold wet, snowy spring. I have been noticing bee poop pretty much all over the outside of the hive. I read about dysentery vs Nosema. This is concerning. I don’t know what my next step should be. The bees appear normal when last we did our bee hive inspection. That was about two weeks ago. At that time, we gave them a pollen patty. There was not a lot of poop at that time. But when we started having huge fluctuations in the weather, it got worse.
Rusty Burlew replies:
Since you’ve done your reading, you know that Nosema disease and honey bee dysentery are two unrelated conditions that may occur at the same time. One does not cause the other, so the presence of fecal spots in or around the hive is not a sign of Nosema.
Fecal droppings are most often seen in the spring when bees that have been confined all winter take their first spring flights. If it is cold outside, they cannot fly very far without getting chilled, so they drop their feces near the hive, often hitting the roof, the landing board, or the side walls. This is completely normal, but it may be more noticeable after the bees eat pollen patties because the patties contain more solid material than honey alone.
Also, droppings may be more numerous after periods of good weather because the bees are more tempted to go outside and relieve themselves. In addition, periods of good weather tend to amplify the fecal accumulation because it is less likely to be washed away daily by rain or snow. Instead of an accumulation of 2 to 3 days, you may see a week’s worth or more.
You say you inspected the colony and the bees appear normal. If that’s the case, then you shouldn’t be worried about Nosema. Had you found a shrunken colony of dead and dying bees, or lethargic bees barely able to move, then I would wonder about Nosema. A colony heavily-infected by Nosema does not look or behave normally.
If you are still concerned about Nosema, you may be able to find someone in a local bee club who can test for you. You’ll need about 25 to 50 bees to complete the test. It can be done in just a few minutes with a 400x microscope and a little know-how.