July 20th, 2009

Bee Strangeness and Sadness

Bee Strangeness and Sadness

Today was a day of bee strangeness, and sadness.

First, I saw an albino honey bee in the spearmint blossoms this morning while hanging my laundry out to dry in the back yard. It wasn't pure white, by any means, but it was tawny-colored where the yellow stripes would have been, and had brownish areas where the black would have been. I'd guess it was leucistic and not a true albino.

Then in the afternoon I found a dead bee in back. That happens occasionally and is not remarkable in and of itself, but less than 5 minutes later I spied a live bee in great distress. She was crawling along the walk, unable to fly. As she crawled she periodically tried to buzz her wings but only the left pair could move. She also gyrated her abdomen, and, with all 6 legs one by one, frantically did what looked like scratching herself all over her exoskeleton.

This was disturbing enough, but two minutes later I found a second bee with the same strange behavior -- couldn't fly, gyrating abdomen, frantic scratching. (There was at least one or possibly two other similarly distressed bees I saw, but I lost track of them when I turned my attention back to the original two.)

After dinner I found 4 floundering, distressed bees in back, and a new dead one. And later on, at sundown, there were 2 still crawling around on the walk, desperately struggling to make right whatever had gone wrong.

Even though my (pesticide-free) spearmint and lemon balm patches have been swarming with honey bees for a few weeks now, teeming with robust, healthy activity, I hated to see even a small few of them in such distress, after all the horrible things that have happened to honey bees in the past couple of years. I am worried.

Here's the dead bee, with her proboscis unfurled.

It looks like she's playing a flute.  (Hmm, that pose looks a little familiar . . . )

Distressed bee desperately contorting herself.

A healthy bee in the spearmint.