Is my tree killing bees?

Asked July 31, 2018, 7:31 PM EDT

I have lived in this house for 9 years, and other than watering during dry spells, I do not spray or fertilize at all.... with that being said, my tree top is always humming with honey bees (pollen-jocks... big fat black fluffy bees). They pull the blooms off, and drop them on the ground too, Seems harmless, they are gathering nectar, right? but every day, there are at any given time 15 dead under the tree, in the grass , on the driveway.... my neighbor observed this, and said it was 'Aluminum Poisoning'... the bees walk around drunk, spinning in circles... then just either walk off or just lay there and die. I was told my tree was a Sourwood. Is my tree helping more bees than it may be killing?

Washington County Oregon

10 Responses

Sourwood is one of the top trees for bees, so the buzzing is totally normal. What I cannot understand is why the bees are dying. So this is the first time in 9 years you have noticed this volume of dead bees? Sometimes, when bee-attractive shade trees are treated with insecticides you can also see bees dying under the tree, but since your tree is untreated, this is obviously not the reason. The only other thing is that some insecticides can move through the soil, up the tree and into the flowers. Have you applied any insecticide to the soil or shrubs in the past year? Other than that, I am not really sure what is going on. Keep us posted on whether you keep seeing dead bees next week.

Totally weird, and yes, for the nine years we have been at this house, this tree has ALWAYS dropped bees... every day there are new dead bees on the ground. They walk around like they are drunk... then just stop moving, and die. I just took a video of one staggering around, and at that time, I had 6 dead bees I could visibly see. What about Weed n feed in the grass? I might weed n feed my lawn once a year.... hhhhmmmm

This is very strange. There are some plants that naturally produce nectar that is toxic to bees, but sourwood is not listed as one of those plants. In fact, its listed as one of the trees you can plant for bees. Double check to make sure the weed and feed doesn't contain an insecticide (I doubt it does). Also, for many species of bumble bees, colonies start to die naturally in August, so you might just be seeing natural mortality. Nevertheless, I would like to come by next year at the beginning of bloom to take some samples. Please contact me when the tree begins to bloom next year - Andony.Melathopoulos@oregonstate.edu.

Just a reminder - I am interested in this tree. Please email me when it blooms again this year - Andony.Melathopoulos@oregonstate.edu.

I actually was checking it out today, and it already has the green sprouts that will eventually pop into the flower. I thought too, it was just the end of their life and they happen to pick my tree to end it with. But so many bees at the bottom of the tree.

Thanks. Send me an email when bloom begins with your contact information and I will take a look.

It’s blooming... I started noticing A bit of bee activity:)

Great. Can you send me an email with your address and contact information and we can coordinate me visting? Andony.Melathopoulos@oregonstate.edu

Today I found my first staggering, now dead bee... all the blooms on the ground behind him is what the bees will bee laying in soon

Please email him directly at the above email so he can come visit. This system isn't designed for longer back and forth, and those notifications get lost. Here is the last contact info message.

Can you send me an email with your address and contact information and we can coordinate me visting? Andony.Melathopoulos@oregonstate.edu