Without a hive, bees still engineer perfectly

In June 2015 on June 24, 2015 at 6:15 am

October 2014

Sarah: This dark mass under the ledge of a limestone cliff on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula is formed by bees.

I spotted and photographed the swarm — as I thought it was transient — in October 2014.

During the same week, my family and I discovered thousands and thousands of dead bees in the garage of a nearby house.

With some information provided by a quick twitter conversations with SA Museum, we concluded a group of bees had tried to set up in the house, but then moved to the beach when the queen pulled the pin.

However, when we returned to the same spot several months later, the bees were still there! And incredible structures were visible beneath them – sheets of honeycomb.

jan closeup

Excitedly, I got in touch with the Museum again – this time via email. Two separate scientists sent me responses:

“If appropriate nesting sites are limited, honeybees may try and locate an area that is out of the elements like a cave or crevice and they will sometimes construct their combs exposed in this manner. Often when they do this the hive’s survivability is diminished during winter time.”

“I recall finding numerous such nesting sites under low calcrete / calcarenite ledges on the coastline of Coffin Bay or Venus Bay on Eyre Peninsula.”

I watched the bees for hours, and thought about them endlessly after we had returned to Adelaide .

Lo and behold, when we ventured to the beach again in April 2015, there they were still! But numbers were lower – which made me sad (but I was secretly also thrilled to be able to view more honeycomb).

April 2015

Another trip in June 2015 confirmed the trend – very few remaining bees, and more visible honeycomb. It appears the museum expert was right – wintering under a beachside ledge is a big ask for bees.

June 2015 close

With a few more days planned for Yorke Peninsula in the July school holidays, I wonder what we will find? I’ll be sure to post more photos then.

  1. […] week’s check on the freestanding hive on a beach at Yorke Peninsula revealed a small recovery in bee numbers. The central 4-5 panels of honeycomb are covered in […]

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