Last spring and also in autumn/winter I have been finding many killed bees on the roofs of some of our hives. The parts of the bees that were left on the roof were the abdomens, the front half with thorax removed; every single dead bee was the same. A distressing find and at first I wondered whether it was the handiwork of hornets as I have seen them catch bees and remove the thorax that they flew off with in the past. However, there were hardly any hornets in our apiary last year and I certainly did not see any hornet activity. During July and August I did not see any evidence of dead bees on the roofs but then from October onwards it has been happening again. I’m showing some photos of my findings with this article. I was wondering who the culprits were to cause this massacre of dead bees on quite a few of our hives (15+). I made some enquiries with other beekeepers around the country and a number of them had witnessed robins and sparrows catching their bees and doing exactly that, removing the thorax and leaving the abdomen behind. I now know why I am being followed by various robins whilst hefting the hives on a weekly basis during the winter months. On 9th January I was being followed by 3 robins keen to get their little beaks on our bees. I saw the robins dive down from hive roof to ground level and fly straight back up onto the roof again. I expect it is a combination of taking bees off the landing board, from damp ground when they are taking moisture, and bees in flight. They are following me from roof to roof probably hoping for a little bee snack. I am not happy to see such a large number of bees taken by the birds but at least I know we don’t have a hornet problem and the mystery has been resolved as to who the culprits are. What does puzzle me is why I have not seen this ever before? Is it because of a shortage of a natural food source for the robins following the terrible weather we had last year? I wonder whether anyone else in the Association has witnessed this?

Astrid Bowers-Veenman

Thank you Astrid for this unwelcome news. l am sure that most of us do welcome and are delighted to see a robin in our garden, so this is an unexpected piece of news. Has anyone else seen this? Please let me know

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