Do honeybees poop? Of course! Bees are both, animals and insects. All animals with very few exceptions poop to get rid of undigested food waste. This is important because if the waste is kept inside, it can poison the body. If you are a nature watcher or beekeeper you may have seen honeybees poop, or at least saw the evidence.
How Do Bees Poop?
Through their rectum, just like humans and other animals. Bees push nectar out of their crop (honey stomach) into their digestive stomach to eat. Bees have an open circulatory system, where blood, nutritions move freely in the body unlike the human circulatory system that contains arteries and veins.
The midgut of a bee absorbs nutrients, while the waste material is brought to the rectum to be expelled. When the bee poops, midgut and other organs forwards waste towards the rectum, where the majority of the water in the waste is reabsorbed. When the rectum is full, the bee expels its contents.
What does Honeybee poop look like?
Honeybee poop is slightly sticky and has a mustard-yellow color. It comes in various shapes and forms, such as little yellow splats, droplets or sausage shape.
For the first 3 weeks of their life the queen produces yellowish-brown feces. The consistency is fairly liquid and virgin queen use it as “spray” to fight against other prospective queens. Once mature, the queens poop becomes more transparent and solid with some dark pieces.
Did you know that bees also eat other bees’ poop? According to research it strengthens the bees’ immune system and contains healthy gut bacteria.
Does Honeybee poop smell?
No, normal, healthy honeybee poop does not smell. However, the queen bee’s regular feces can smell rancid, although the ´spray feces´ have a floral scent.
When bees suffer from a virus or dysentery, they get diarrhea. The smell is awful and is easily recognized by bees and beekeepers.
Can Honeybees Fart?
Yes, they can. When the digestive system breaks down food it can produce gas. Swallowing air can also cause farts in mammals. However, bees do not breathe through their mouths so they probably fart less.
Where do Honeybees poop?
Honeybees are very clean. This is vital in order to keep the hive free from disease. Worker bees usually poop outside the hive. The evidence is often seen on leaves, flowers, garden furniture, cars, or windows. The poop from the queen and drone is disposed off by the worker bees as they rarely leave the hive.
Did you know that during the winter months, when bees don´t leave their hive to forage, worker bees can hold onto their poop for months? They may leave the hive briefly for a ´cleansing flight´ when the weather permits. If the weather is too severe, the workers may defecate inside the hive, which means that the feces cannot be disposed outside. This can lead to significant problems, like losing the entire colony, depending on how long the severe weather lasts.
What is honeybee poop made of?
The content of honeybee poop is mostly undigested pollen fat, pollen grains, and other waste. The poop from the queen is different from that of regular bees. It also has another purpose. For the first 2 weeks of a virgin queen´s life her feces emit pheromones that the other prospective queens find repulsive. It serves as a great weapon when it comes to fighting for the throne. Virgin queens sometimes spray each other with their poop to defeat the other.
Do Honeybees get diarrhea?
The short answer is yes. Honeybees can suffer from dysentery. This is a type of diarrhea that honeybees can get if they have too much waste in their bodies and are unable to leave the hive in the winter to poop. This can be dangerous for the entire hive as dysentery can spread and account for severe winter losses of honeybee colonies in the winter.
Is Honey Bee poop?
No! Honey is made from nectar which the worker bees collect when they visit various flowers. The nectar is stored in the bees crop and back in the hive it is passed from one bee to another. The nectar is consequently enriched with certain enzymes the bees produce before it is deposited into a wax cell in the honey comb.
What information can honeybee poop give us?
Analyzing the pollen grains in bee feces can tell scientists which flowers bees forage. However, fecal material from bees is also an important indicator of health. Various infectious diseases can be transmitted via fecal matter, such as the Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. Furthermore, bee poop can be used to determine the health of entire bee colonies. This can be done by collecting samples that subsequently get analyzed by special laboratories to determine whether a colony shows signs of disease or infection.
What does Flower shape have to do with bee poop?
Bee poop can tell a lot about the health of a bee. Scientists have discovered in a study published in the journal ´Entomology Today´ that the shape of the flowers bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) visit to forage for food can have a major impact on the hive´s health.
One of the authors of the study, Professor Jenny Hazlehurst, PhD, assistant professor of biology at California State University East Bay said, “I am most excited about the potential applications of this research for understanding how to best protect pollinators from pathogens that are spread from the fecal to oral route.”
They observed that sick bees defecate more than healthy ones. For their study, the authors fed the bees with a 30% sucrose solution to which they added a fluorescent dye to make the fecal matter easier to identify. The bumble bees had access to 12 flowers with 4 different flower shapes (cup-shape, tube-shape, small and large composite flower-shape). The composite flower shapes consisted of flowers whereby the diameter of the disk was either smaller or larger than the length of the petal.
For the trial the team replaced the natural nectar of the flowers with the sucrose solution and placed paper disks below each flower. Afterwards the flowers and paper disks were examined under ultraviolet light. From the 28 fecal matters dropped, 46% were left on the flowers, while 54% of the fecal matter had dropped onto the paper disks. This confirmed that flower shape matters in spreading disease. Most of the fecal matter was found on the large composite flowers (Erigeron glaucus), with the other 3 shapes showing significantly less poop.
The researchers believe that the longer it takes a bee to forage on a flower, the greater the likelihood that a bee will poop. Other factors that play a role in the length of time bees stay on an individual flower include the corolla depth (The group of petals on a flower), the concentration of nectar and its viscosity, and whether the bee gathers nectar or pollen. Given that composite flowers have many small florets, foragers must move from floret to floret. This takes time and increases the chances of a bee defecating on the flower but it also increases the time subsequent bees are exposed to the feces left by a previous forager.
Coming into contact with fecal matter from previous foragers has significant consequences. Honeybees poop can pass infection from one bee to another. The worst case scenario is passing disease from population of wild bees to populations of managed bees or vice versa.
Professor Hazlehurst stated,
“Pathogen transmission at shared floral resources through defecation on the floral surface and subsequent consumption by the next pollinator to visit is one potential mechanism for how diseases could move between managed and wild bee populations, or even in the reverse direction. It is important that we know about this possibility so that we can come up with good management strategies to prevent this from happening.”
Honeybees Poop as a defense
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE discovered that honeybees also use animal feces to defend their nests. Honeybees in Asia (Apis cerana) have evolved to defend themselves from predators like giant wasps of the genus Vespa soror. These groups of giant hornets attack the honeybee colony to kill them, rob their stores and prey on their brood.
The researchers observed a response to an attack by V. soror, that the worker bees foraged for animal feces and placed them near the entrance to their nests. This process known as fecal spotting increased after the bee colonies were exposed to attacks of hornets. The researchers noted a continuous spotting for days after the attack of V. soror on the colonies had stopped. The giant hornets frequently landed at the entrances and chewed on the hive. However, their smaller relatives, the Vespa velutina, rarely landed at entrances.
The scientists discovered that moderate to heavy fecal spotting not only reduced the attempts of the giant hornet V. soror to penetrate the bees nests, it also reduced the incidence of multiple-hornet attacks. It also substantially reduced the chances of V. soror approaching and chewing on entrances.
The researchers believe that the bees forage for animal feces that are not derived from plants. Feces that contain solid matter have repelling properties. It is the first report of bees using tools as a matter of defense.