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Bumble Bee How to Repair a Bumble Bee

Bumble bee mites - Photo  Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Close
All Photos: Elizabeth Close

You might have read elsewhere on this site how the precarious flight of bumble bees could have a lot to do with the 'excess baggage' they're carrying around with them. This extra cargo is the mites they pick up while they're resting on the ground.

Recently I heard from Elizabeth Close, an amazing lady in Northern Ireland, who not only observed and photographed these annoying little hitchhikers, but also noticed that they were so numerous the bees had become weak and unable to fly. Being a practical person she found a safe way of removing them.

First she lines up a few cups, half-filled with tepid water.

Bumble bee mites - Photo  Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Close

Then she finds a mite infested bee, and encourages it to walk onto the end of a twig.

Immersing the Bee - Photo  Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Close

Next she dips the bee and twig slowly into the first cup of water, with the odd total immersion. The mites jump off immediately, like rats leaving a sinking ship.

Mites leaving bee - Photo  Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Close

She then dips the bee into the other cups until all the mites have left.

The bee, as you'd imagine, is saturated, and not too happy. But placed on a bit of kitchen paper soon dries out.

Drying the bee off - Photo  Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Close

She keeps the bee in an open box, wrapped loosely in tissue, until it is active enough to fly away.

Elizabeth was keen to stress that no bees were injured by the procedure and all flew off in better shape than when they were found. Even the mites that come off in the water are alive, so they too could be released, although that's entirely up to the individual 'bee doctor'!

Track Down More Info

UK Safari Bumble Bee Page
How Bumble Bees Got Their Name
How to Build a Bumble Bee House - Members Only
UK Safari Creepy-Crawlies Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved