Most topics relating to beekeeping make for fascinating discussions over a hot cup of coffee or a cold beer. But there is one exception: bee excrement. If you are like most people, you have never discussed bee poop with your friends. But since the topic has been brought up, do bees poop?
In a word, yes. Bees are living organisms that produce waste from the food they eat. That waste has to go somewhere. Just like nearly every other creature on the planet, bees of all species do defecate.
How often do bees poop?
Your average human will defecate once or twice daily. However, there is no standard. Why? Because people are different. We all use the toilet as often as necessary to properly eliminate waste. Bees are no different. Bees poop as often as they need to.
The one exception to this rule relates to the hive. Because bees will rarely defecate inside the hive (the queen bee being excepted, of course) they run into problems once the temperature starts to drop. Bees have trouble flying in cold temperatures, which is one of the reasons they tend to stay in the hive during the winter. But guess what that means? They have to hold it.
Bees actually will avoid defecating during the winter. But on that first day when it is warm enough to head outside, that is exactly what they do. When you have to go, you have to go!
Do bees poop while flying?
There are some creatures capable of defecating only while stationary. Bees are not one of them. They do not stop to poop. They let it go in mid-flight. The interesting thing is that bees tend to follow established flight paths. Think of them as bee highways in the sky.
Once a group of worker bees has established a route to and from a source of food, for example, they will use that route until the food source is exhausted. As such, it is easy to spot flight paths by looking for poop trails. You just have to know what you’re looking for.
What does bee poop look like?
Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’? It’s true. In addition, your poop is made up of what you eat. In a bee’s case, this means pollen, nectar, and honey. Most bees excrete a sticky yellow substance that contains more pollen than anything else. It is often bright yellow, But the actual shade can vary depending on a bee’s diet.
Do bees pee?
Common sense would seem to dictate that any creature that poops also pees. However, that is not the case with bees. Bees do not pee. Humans do both because liquids and solids are absorbed and filtered in our systems differently. In bee biology, liquids and solids are one and the same for digestive purposes.
The uric acid that normally comes out in our pee is combined with the solid material in bee poop. As a side note, a bee’s rectum is capable of absorbing about 90% of all water remaining in waste material. Therefore, there really is no need for a liquid excretion.
Do bees poop pollen?
Pollen byproducts do constitute part of the makeup of the bee poop. However, we are not talking solid pollen particles. Pollen is ground-up and broken down in the bee’s crop. It then moves into the mid-gut where nutrients are absorbed. What’s left it sent to the hindgut and eventually out the rectum.
Is bee poop toxic?
The idea of bee poop being toxic comes from reports in southeast Asia in the early 1980s, when refugees fleeing Vietnam claimed communist forces were dropping chemical agents on them. They claimed to be suffering symptoms of biological warfare. However, a subsequent investigation revealed that the yellow substance falling from the sky was bee poop. Furthermore, the physical symptoms they were experiencing were the result of fungal infections, not the bee poop. So no, bee poop is not toxic. That is everything you may or may not have wanted to know about bee poop. If you are ever hit by the ‘yellow rain’ when bees first emerge from their nests in the spring, you’ll know what it is.