A Bee with Racing Stripes?

My friend Stephen was helping a new beekeeper when they spotted these spotted honey bees. It almost looks like someone was doing a science experiment using marked bees. It’s probably sticky pollen that got glued to the bees’ blind spots – the spot where a bee can’t reach to scratch her itch or her stuck pollen. Stephen says there were five or six of these bees.  Have you ever seen anything like this?

Yellow-dusted honey bees. A new species? Freaks of nature? Supernatural phenomena? What do you think?  (Photo credit: Stephen Bennett)

Yellow-dusted honey bees. A new species? Freaks of nature?
Supernatural phenomena? What do you think?
(Photo credit: Stephen Bennett)

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Bee Biology, Friends, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Bee with Racing Stripes?

  1. The Apiarist says:

    Is Tom Seeley (or someone who has read his excellent book) bee hunting near you? See http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/05/following-wild-bees-how-honeybee-hunting . He marks bees visiting his portable feeder to measure return flight times and so calculate how far away the colony is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      That’s a good question. They do look artificially marked, don’t they? We are in western Canada and Tom is in upstate New York, so this isn’t his artwork. There aren’t any other researchers near these bees (in the Rocky Mountain foothills near Calgary), either. I think we’ll go with bees working some deep-throated flower and getting yellow pollen, some getting stuck where they can’t remove it. I have no idea what that flower would be, but it’s not canola, alfalfa, or sweet clover. Those are our main honey plants here and if they did this to bees, we’d see the marks a lot more often.


      • Joey Graham says:

        I live in invermere bc and i have a few of the yellow dusted bees its not pollen and thats for sure some have biv and small lines i have a yellow faced one some with yellow dots and one with the line starting on its face and ending near its butt


      • Ron Miksha says:

        Thanks! Since you are sure that it’s not pollen, what do you think it is? Any ideas?


  2. Julie says:

    Yesterday, on one of my returning foragers, but I couldn’t begin to guess what she found because my colonies are foraging in a mix of sub/urban/farmland/rural. The pollen was bright yellow and quite spherical.

    Fwiw, some flowers have anthers that rub along the top of the head or thorax as bees reach for nectar smearing them with pollen. The best known is probably Himalayan Balsam, and another called Jewel Weed, which leave a white stripe on the thorax of a bee.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emily Scott says:

    I’ve seen this many times, but only with grey pollen from Himalayan balsam. If you ask local bee keepers there must be someone who knows what this yellow pollen is..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert says:

    We noticed nearly the exact occurrence on John’s bees (urban Calgary) a couple weeks ago. Blindly trying to photograph the bees failed. But Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Aha! An epidemic! If we discover Zombees with stripes, we can start a circus. Any guesses on the flower source? What do we have in the Calgary area that has a deep blossom and sticky yellow pollen that the bees work this time of year?


  5. John (Robert's friend) says:

    The day after seeing my racing striped bees I saw a bee on a zucchini plant in my garden. It was absolutely covered head to toe in pollen. So I’m guessing that was the source of my marked bees.

    Liked by 1 person

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