Honeybees and yellowjackets: foes or partners?

Bees and Yellowjackets: some observations

Though many beekeepers feel that yellowjackets–especially if their populations are very large, threaten honeybee hives as predators, I observed some interesting cooperation between these two species at my hive.

I noticed a half dozen yellowjackets flying their methodical zigzag patrols under the beehive around the first of August.  I also noticed that a bee that misses the landing platform and lands on the ground instead is swarmed by the yellowjackets and eaten.

As the yellowjacket numbers increase, I wonder if they pose a threat to the hive.  But two weeks later, there are more yellowjackets, but a subtle shift in their behavior–an equilibrium of sorts.  I see two live  bees miss the landing and fall to the ground, but the yellowjackets simply ignore them.

Instead, I see a housekeeping bee fly down to the ground with a hefty dead drone body in tow and make a general fuss until a yellowjacket notices and grabs the bait–and the housekeeping bee lifts off back to the hive.  Soon two other dead bees are dumped overboard and cleaned up by the jackets in short order.

Now the bees don’t have to fly a distance away with their dead to clean their hive– they have a garbage clean up service on site– which serves the double purpose of feeding the yellowjackets dead rather than live bees.

Honey!

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