Why so many wings and legs?
A beekeeper living on Vancouver Island is worried about the great number of honey bee wings and legs she is seeing on the Varroa drawer. She just finished treating her hive with formic acid pads and wondered if the accumulation of bee parts was a result of the mites or the mite treatment.
I too have noticed occasional accumulations of wings and legs on the bottom board, but it doesn’t happen every year nor does it happen to every hive. My theory is that it has nothing to do with mites but is related to the weather.
Bees die every day and we know from experiments that during the summer months the average hive loses 1000 bees per day. Most of those die in the field, but some die in the hive. The ones that die in the hive are quickly removed by the house bees. In very moist or humid times of the year those bees are removed all in one piece, with wings and legs still attached.
But in very dry times of year (like late summer and early fall) a dead bee quickly becomes desiccated—dry and crispy—and easily falls apart. Since bee bodies are so small, it doesn’t take much time for them to dry out. Also, at this time of year the combs are fat with honey and pollen, and bee space it at a minimum. My theory is that while the dead bees are being pulled from the hive during these dry periods, their brittle, flaky bodies are scraped against the combs and other bees, causing the wings and legs to get pulled off. The pieces fall through the screen and land on the Varroa drawer while the rest of the bee gets hauled outside.
Is this a crazy theory? Maybe. If someone has a better idea, I’d love to hear it.