When Dead Bees are a Good Thing
Wait... dead bees can be a good thing??? Yes, but in small quantities. Let us explain. During the winter it can be hard to tell if your colony is doing well. There are ways to check on them but when doing quick spot checks, it's hard. Opening the hive to feed is ok, especially if it is starvation vs feeding. However, a beekeeper wants to limit how often and how long the hive is open for in the winter.
So how can you tell the hive is doing well without opening? Dead bees. The number of dead bees in front of the hive can tell you quite a bit. A lot of dead bees is a bad thing. Limited dead bees are a good thing. It means that even while it is cold outside, the bees inside are cleaning their hive of the dead.
When bees cluster, they rotate from the outside to the inside, vibrating their bodies to produce heat and keep warm. They take turns grabbing honey and bringing it to the queen who is at the center of the cluster. This continues as long as the bees has food to keep their energy up, they don't have too much moisture in their hive to freeze them or they don't get too cold. Any of those situations and they die.
So, when are dead bees on snow outside the hive a good thing? Dead bees are bought OUT of the hive by live bees. It means the colony inside is strong and they are cleaning up and doing well. This means the dead bees most likely met the end of their time naturally and were brought out of the hive by a healthy colony cleaning house. In other words, it's not ALWAYS sad to see dead bees. Sometimes, especially during winter, it can be a hopeful sign.