This past week we had a brief bout of warm weather. It was an unusually cold January, and last Wednesday we had a day over 50 F (10 C). The bees were very excited and the photo shows what I found in front of the hive I call Eris that afternoon.
Honey bees have two expandable organs in their bodies: their crop, or honey stomach, and their rectum. In the summer, the expandable crop lets them collect nearly a body’s worth of nectar while foraging. In the winter, the expendable rectum lets them spend long periods huddled in the hive without defecating. So a warm day like this is a literal relief to the bees, to enjoy some warm weather and empty their rectums outside of the hive.
During cold weather bees will also die in the hive and fall to the floor. So a few days later you find dead bees outside the hive that the workers have removed, sometimes dotted in the snow and sometimes just on the landing board.
New beekeepers may think something is amiss; more experienced keepers know that this means their bees are most likely still alive. I cleaned off the landing boards of my hives as the bees were once again huddled against the cold.
May you prosper and find honey.