apiary creatures

Can you solve this British bee mystery?

I love nothing more than a good British mystery. Think of a cold winter’s night, a blazing fire, and a tad of brandy alongside the book. Perfect. But today my UK partner in crime, Christopher Wren, has come up with another kind of mystery—the beehive kind.

“It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
— Sir Winston Churchill (1939)

In today’s post at TrogTrogBee, Christopher shares photos of something odd and ominous he found in one of his hives. Head on over and see if you can figure out what it is. The pictures are fantastic, and for size reference, he has a comparison shot of his hive invader positioned alongside a honey bee queen.

But don’t read all the way down, because the answer to the mystery is near the bottom. It required the vast resources of Britain’s National Bee Unit to name the intruder.

I enjoyed reading Christopher’s account but have to admit that I couldn’t solve the puzzle either. Maybe you can.

Honey Bee Suite

A British bee mystery

I love nothing more than a good mystery. Pixabay public domain photo.






  • It’s a bumble-bee. I’ve seen them often in bee-colonies in early spring. Sometimes, they’re not dead. They subdue the bees by loud buzzing, by which the bees freeze as long as the buzzing continues. They always leave the hive again, if they’re still alive after the break of spring.

    Jan Olsson. Denmark

  • I gussed the answer when I saw the picture of the unidentified insect alongside the honey bee. The reason I got it is that I have seen honey bees carrying out a dead hairless bumble bee from a hive. They kind of deposited it on the outside of the hive and for some reason it stuck there rather than falling immediately to the ground. It took me a while to recognise it even though it wasn’t quite as hairless and stripped clean as the one in this picture. The one I saw still had the outline of its wings, its mandibles and most of the hair around the head, but had all of its hair missing from the other segments, leaving it shiny black as in these pictures.

  • I would have never guessed. Poor bumblebee queen 🙁 She was smaller than what I am used seeing, though.

    I am so happy in spring when I see those huge queens flying around and sounding like little helicopters, since I know not many survive the winter. On the other hand, since so many creatures overwinter in our home — spiders, ants, moths, ladybugs, cabbage butterflies (we bring plants from the garden indoors), maybe we should try to attract bumblebees …

  • Hey! That’s exactly what I thought! No naturalist brilliance on my part, just knowledge gleaned from fishing deteriorated bumbles out of stock troughs.

    It IS interesting to note that bumble bees’ striking color is from their fur – is it correct to call it fur?
    And that their exoskeleton is just solid black.

    Thanks for a mysterious start to a rainy March day, Rusty!

    Corinth, KY

  • Thought it might have been a bumble bee as I’ve found a few of the poor bald creatures in my hives. But wasn’t sure as the shape didn’t look quite right. Bumbling into a honey bee colony is a big mistake!

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