Bee mummies

Worker bees will eject waste to keep the hive clean. But if the waste is too big to carry out, say a dead mouse, it will instead be mummified.

Hadi / CC BY-SA

Beehives have efficient waste disposal systems that would be the envy of most municipalities. Bees carry out anything that could undermine the good health of the hive;  there’s even a special class of worker bee that properly disposes of dead bees (the “mortuary bees”).

Unfortunately, sometimes something gets into the hive that’s too big for the bees to carry away. A mouse or a small lizard, for example. Bee mandibles are neither large nor sharp enough to cut up such animals, and a dead and decaying mouse corpse is going to introduce all the joys of putrefaction into the bees’ living / eating / breeding quarters.

So, the bees will encase the corpse in propolis, a kind of bee-produced resin usually used to seal up gaps in the hive. Completely encased in this dark brown goo, the animal body becomes effectively mummified and no longer presents a health hazard to the hive. If you have the stomach for it, you can see a picture of a bee-mummified mouse in the second link below.

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