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Honey bee kneading elder bark

Honey-bee-on-elder-stem-2
Exercising those rear legs.

Yesterday was unusually warm, dry, and sunny for mid-October. My bees were darting about in the sunshine, but for some reason, they were particularly attracted to this elderberry bush. The bee in the photo was pressing her two rear legs into the bark, one side and then the other, much like a cat kneads with its fore paws. I’ve never seen that behavior before and found several bees all doing the same thing.

Comments

Cathi Gulyas
Reply

Rusty –
Maybe they were collecting propolis?

Rusty
Reply

Cathi,

I wondered that as well, but I didn’t see any collecting going on, just this strange rocking left and right.

Cathi Gulyas
Reply

Hmmmm – maybe it was some sort of cleaning behavior? Attempting to clean debris off of their bodies? If I come across any other postings on the internet regarding this type of behavior I’ll let you know. I’m curious too. lol

Rusty
Reply

Cathi,

That would be great . . . I’d love to know what they’re up to.

Nancy
Reply

Well, there are a lot of medicinal claims made for elder in general, and the bark is said to be anti-inflammatory. Never heard anything about joint pain in bees, but it is beginning to be reported that AI’s work by stimulating the immune system. Hmm.

The older “Herb Ladies” including my late Mother, had a vast trove of this kind of information. Now that you have pointed out this behavior, I’ll have to keep an eye on the foragers and see what other reported “healing plants” they land on.

Might be another chapter of “Botany for Beekeepers.”

Nan

Rusty
Reply

Nan,

I did look around the yard at the time, and I didn’t see bees doing this on anything else.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Cathi! They never cease to amaze me!

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