Do Bees Poop?

bee excrement on the hive
Honey bees' poop are yellow droplets which are the same colour as their primary food

Honey bees poop just like any other creature. Their faeces are often produced in yellow droplets, the same colour as their primary foods.

The honeybee digestive system is made up of multiple parts. This allows bees to process nectar and eat in separate parts of their bodies. Bee defecation is a normal process that keeps bees and hives healthy.

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    How Do Bees Poop?

    Like humans, bees have a rectum. This is where waste and excess water end up until the bee is ready to push the contents out.

    • Eating: Bees do not eat straight from their mouths as we do. Instead, they push nectar out of their “honey stomach” into their digestive stomach to eat. The honey stomach, or crop, is the only entryway into the rest of the digestive system.
    • Open circulatory system: For mammals, blood circulates within arteries and veins. A bee, on the other hand, has a system where blood, nutrients, and hormones disperse through its body without constraint.
    • Picking up waste: A bee’s open circulatory system brings waste within the body to the rectum for disposal.
    • Digestion: The midgut is the part of a bee’s digestive system that absorbs nutrients.
    • Defecation: As the midgut forwards wastes towards the rectum, so do other organs. The rectum reabsorbs a majority of the water present in the waste. Then, the bee expels its contents from the rectum, which is right above its stinger.
    internal anatomy of a bee
    While humans have 12 parts to their digestive systems, honeybees have three

    What Are the Three Parts of a Bee’s Digestive System?

    It takes a team of organs to produce honey and absorb nutrients at the same time. The three parts of a bee’s digestive system work together for maximum bee function.

    • Foregut: This consists of a bee’s mouth, oesophagus, and honey stomach.
    • Midgut: This is where the bee’s “real stomach” digests food.
    • Hindgut: This includes the small intestines and rectum.

     

    These “guts” are ordered in succession from the mouth to the rectum.

    What is the foregut?

    The foregut is the bee’s honey-making machine. It is also where they store honey and nectar. The nectar a bee collects goes to the honey stomach. Here, the nectar absorbs enzymes.

    Bees pass nectar from their honey stomachs to each other. This process dehydrates the nectar so it can become honey.

    The oesophagus only connects to the honey stomach and has no direct entry to the midgut. This disconnection is why bees cannot vomit.

    The foregut ends with a valve that carries nectar over to the midgut.

    What is the midgut?

    The midgut of a bee is likened to a human’s stomach. This is the most vulnerable part of a bee’s digestive system. Its special lining makes it possible for nutrients from digestion to enter the rest of the body. However, it can also allow viruses to take over.

    The proventriculus is the sole entryway into the midgut. This valve carries nectar over when the bee is hungry.

    What is the hindgut?

    The hindgut is made up of the small intestines and the rectum. The small intestines are a very short connection between the midgut and the hindgut.

    Rectal pads within the rectum soak up excess water. Bees’ bodies benefit from preserving as much water as possible. This also solidifies waste.

    Where Do Honey Bees Poop?

    One out of four honeybee groups defecates outside of the hive. The rest poop inside their living quarters and expect other bees to clean it up, which they do.

    The four roles in a hive are workers, drones, larvae, and the queen. Worker bees are the ones harvesting nectar for the hive. Therefore, they are outside of the hive more than the others.

    In fact, the queen bee and drones never go outside of the hive unless they are removed by the colony or need to mate.

    Worker bees poop outside, and the others poop inside the hive. The worker bees carry out the hive port-a-potties as part of their jobs. This keeps the hive sanitary. In the winter, cleaning and pooping can be a challenging ordeal. The bees try to hold in their poop until spring.

    This may be why there are tons of yellow splatters outside when spring breaks out. The bees are finally releasing their faeces.

    Close Up Of Western Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) Pollinating
    Honey bees have two stomachs; the honey stomach where they store nectar and the food stomach which is where food gets digested

    How Often Do Bees Poop?

    Bees may defecate a few times a week. In the winter seasons, they may hold their waste for months. Bees do not do well in temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If bees cannot hold their poop, then the hive can become overwhelmed with waste.

    Fun Fact:

    Bees also eat other bees’ poop. Researchers have concluded that this interesting meal choice strengthens bees’ immune systems as well as obtains healthy gut bacteria.

    What Does Bee Poop Look and Smell Like?

    Bee poop is yellow and pasty. When healthy, faeces are mostly solid. Pollen fat and grains make up some of the bee waste.

    Queen bees create yellowish-brown faeces for their first three weeks of life. This is the “spray” that they use to fight each other. Once mature, their poop becomes more transparent and solid with some dark pieces.

    Normal bee poop does not have a distinct smell.

    However, a beehive can suffer from a virus or dysentery. The bee diarrhoea emits an awful smell that bees and beekeepers can recognize. Since bees have a strong sense of smell, they can tell when the hive is suffering from diarrhoea cases.

    Additionally, the queen bee’s regular faeces can smell rancid as well. Their sprayer faeces, however, have a floral scent.

    south-dakota-queen-bee
    The queen bee's sprayer faeces have a floral scent

    Do Honey Bees Poop While in Flight?

    Working honey bees do poop while they’re flying. They often forage, so they have many chances to relieve themselves en route. These “cleansing flights” may also happen without foraging.

    Worker bees may defecate inside of the hive if the weather is too severe for them. However, this means that no bee is able to rid the hive of faeces.

    Does the Queen Bee Poop?

    The queen bee is not exempt from bodily duties. Worker bees will clean up after her mess.

    The queen bee’s hive is her toilet. However, what’s particular about the queen bee’s waste is that it serves another purpose. The makeup of a queen bee’s microbiome is different from that of a regular bee’s.

    When prospective queen bees are young, their faeces emit pheromones that other bees find disgusting. This makes the potential queen’s poop a great weapon when it comes to fighting for the throne. Young queen bees may spray each other with their poop to defeat the other.

    Can Bees Have Diarrhoea?

    The long winters holding in poop can cause bees to catch dysentery. Dysentery in bees is not contagious. Too much faeces in a bee’s rectum can cause this condition.

    The results of winter dysentery can be devastating. Bees are sanitary creatures that clean the house constantly in warm weather. The uptick in diarrhoea makes the hive unsanitary and disrupts communication.

    Another cause of bee diarrhoea is Nosema parasites. Nosema is a viral fungus that disrupts digestion in bees’ midguts. Once one bee is infected, the whole hive is at risk. Nosema is especially damaging during the winter.

    Is Bee Poop Harmful?

    Bee poop is not toxic to humans and most other creatures. Faeces ridden with Nosema are not harmful, either. Bee poop is unhealthy when it overruns a hive or spreads disease throughout it.

    Buckfast Honey Bees
    Bees are able to fart, however less regularly than mammals as they do not breathe through their mouths

    Do Bees Pee?

    Bees expel uric acid, which can be solid or liquid. This may look like a bee is “peeing.” However, the uric acid comes out of the rectum. It is like any other waste the bee produces.

    Do Bees Fart?

    It’s possible for bees to pass gas. Their digestive system breaks down food, which in turn can produce gas. Perhaps when they are holding in their faeces during winter, they will fart.

    They may not fart as much as mammals do, however. They don’t intake air through their mouths as we do. Swallowing air can cause humans to fart. Bees cannot swallow air since they breathe through holes in their bodies.

    Bee Poop Impacts Colony Health

    Honeybees are fascinating creatures that are dedicated to supporting their colonies—the health of one bee matters to every bee in the hive. Bees’ poop can impact hives by overflowing it or spreading disease. At the colony’s healthiest, there will be yellow splatters outside of the hive. This is a good indication of a lively bee family.

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