Bee Poop [The Down and Dirty Truth]
People often wonder if bees poop? Honey bees are of particular interest since they live in a colony with thousands of individuals. That would be a lot of bee-size “potties”. Well, yes they do and sometimes the wastes of bees can tell you a bit about the health of the colony. In an effort to understand more about these insects, it is also interesting to learn exactly what bee poop is not.
What does Honey Bee Poop Look Like?
Bee feces often appear as small yellow blobs on the surface of objects. These sticky droppings can appear on the hive or you car. Other times, the wastes look like small mustard yellow strings or splats.
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The shape of bee excrement depends on the angle of impact. Is the bee flying or stationary – is the poop hitting a moving car etc.
The health of the individual also plays a role in consistency. Members of a colony with disease often have larger watery wastes, just the same as any animal with dysentery.
Bee poop contains thousands of pollen grains and fats. The tough protective walls of pollen grains are not used by the digestive system. Therefore, some are passed through the bee and expelled.
The diet of the bee also affects the appearance of excrement. Feeding your bees something that is difficult to digest can cause dysentery. Even some winter protein patties can result in more feces than normal.
Where do Honey Bees Poop?
Bee poop can be seen anywhere that they fly. A beekeeper is most likely to first notice wastes on the front of the hive. This is not cause for great concern as some foragers don’t make it far enough away from the entrance.
While massive amounts of watery feces can sometimes be a sign of disease-it is not always the case. A colony that has been confined to the hive for several days due to weather etc, will show more wastes on and near the hive.
Worker bees expel wastes while in flight or while foraging on flowers. In fact, this is sometimes how disease is spread from one colony to another.
If a sick forager leaves behind infected fecal material on a bloom, the next visitor may come in contact with it and pick up contaminates. Unfortunately, that is nature and there is nothing we can do to prevent it.
Protecting Cars and Neighbors from Bee Excrement
Park your car near the front of your hive on warm days, and chances are you will experience bee poop. Of course, it can be washed off but it takes a bit of effort.
The most likely place to experience problems is in the main flight path to the front of the hive. Avoid parking cars here or having items such as clothes lines or patio furniture.
This is particularly important to urban beekeepers or those who have hives in close neighborhoods. Consider what the flight path of your hive is likely to be and what is in that area.
As a beekeeper decides where to place a beehive and even which direction the entrance needs to face, human dwellings should be considered.
Even where beehives are allowed, some towns have ordinances related to complaints about bee feces. Be a good neighbor and you are less likely to have problems down the road.
Why Bees Don’t Expel Wastes in the Hive
In healthy bees, wastes are excreted away from the hive. Adult bees are hygienic and inherently aware of the need to keep the hive as clean as possible.
Only sick or confined bees poop in the hive. This unhygienic behavior can lead to the spread of disease and cause colony failure.
Diseases that are spread through fecal matter such as nosema are more common during times when bees are confined.
This means that during the long Winter months when cold temperatures prevent flight – the bees do not “go potty”. Because, their activity is reduced this does not present a problem in most situations.
However, on a warm Winter day – you will see thousands of bees flying near the hive taking advantage of the warm weather for a “poop break”.
Technically, this activity is know as “cleansing flights”. If you look closely, you may see a relieved look on their face? Just kidding.
This activity can be rather frightening to new beekeepers who fear their colony is about to leave but things should quieten down in a few minutes. Cleansing and orientation flights are common on warm afternoons and often all the hives do it at the same time.
Queen Bee Wastes
Yes, the queen honey bee poops too. In spite of the fact that her nutritious diet results in little waste, her body expels some feces. However, she does not have to leave the hive. Her attendants clean the wastes from her body.
Is Honey Really Bee Poop?
No, honey is not bee poop – I don’t know who got that myth started. Honey bees make honey primarily from plant nectar that is collected by worker bees. Nectar or honey does not pass through the digestive system of bees.
However, like other living things bees eat and consume nutrients and their bodies must defecate or expel wastes from the body. Otherwise, indigestible toxins would make them sick.
Another popular question revolves around the idea that honey is bee vomit. This too is wrong as the process of converting nectar to honey does not take place by bee digestion.
Bees Use Waste for Defense
Some interesting info in the news lately depicts the use of feces-used by bees for defensive purposes. However, this is not bee poop – rather the bees are collecting dung or wastes from other animals and placing it around the hive entrance to discourage the “murder hornets“.
But, be aware that this information refers to the Eastern Honeybee not the Western Honeybee that we have in North America. Our bees have no experience in dealing with these aggressive hornets.
Our honey bees are fascinating insects. Beekeepers and bee lovers are enthralled and inspired by all aspects of their lives – even bee poop!
While they are not the only pollinators, they do have an important role in our way of life. The more we learn about them the more interesting they become.
FAQ’s About Bee Poop
No, honey bee wastes are not toxic in any way that I know. It can spread disease among bee colonies but does not seem dangerous to others.
Water management is very important to insects to prevent dehydration. Honey bees do not need to urinate (or pee). Instead they secrete uric acid and ammonia waste from their Malpighian tubes.
This is a term used to describe the area in front of a beehive where the snow is covered with bee droppings. Common on a warm Winter day after a snowfall – the bees come out for a cleansing flight.
Protect your car from bee droppings by not parking it near the front or “flight path” of a beehive.