Monday, November 12, 2012

What do honeybees do in the Winter?

With temperatures dipping down into the 20's here at night and barely getting into the 40's during the day, the bee hive is a much quieter place these days.  With no flowers about, there is no reason for the bees to leave the hive, and so like many of us, they spend the winter months indoors.

So what do bees do all winter?


 When temperatures drop into the 50's, honey bees cluster together to conserve and share their heat. By shivering, they produce more heat and help to warm the air and those around them. The colder the temperatures, the tighter they cluster.  The center of the cluster where the queen is can kept around 80 degrees, although the edges are often colder.  You may also notice dead bees around your hive at the beginning of winter, these are the drones that are forced out of the hive at the onset of the cold weather.  Although brutal this is normal and is important to the survival of the hive.

Throughout the winter months, the bees will consume the honey they've stored during the summer.  A strong hive can eat up to 30 pounds of honey a season!  Unlike bumblebees that hibernate, and wasps that die out each winter, honeybees rely on the ability to produce enough heat to survive the cold season.  If the colony is too small, has a weak queen, or did not produce enough honey, they will not be able to withstand a long season of cold.

Some beekeepers choose to wrap their hives in the winter to add insulation and help the bees keep the cluster warm.  If you experience prolonged periods of below 0 temperatures, wrapping your hive to keep out the wind may help a hive survive the winter.  If you choose to wrap your hive, make sure you allow moisture to escape or dripping water can seriously damage the health of your hive.  Basic Beekeeping has some wonderful thoughts and ideas about monitoring and mitigating the moisture in your hives.

Keep your eyes out through the winter on those warm days and you will see a small straggle of bees leaving the hive for quick flights.  These bees are taking a short flight to eliminate waste before returning to the warmth of the hive.  Like so many animals, it is a long cold struggle to make it through the winter, and a reason of celebration when the spring comes and the flowers bloom again.

I shared at: Farmgirl Friday The Wilderness Wife, Deborah Jeans Dandelion House

4 comments:

  1. Interesting! I didn't know any of this! My husband really wants to keep bees someday so we need to read up on them.

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  2. They are amazing creatures, can't wait to get our hives in the spring.

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  3. My dad was a bee keeper for many years! I sure do miss him!

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  4. Specialised ’heater bees’ have been discovered by researchers at the Würzburg University, Germany. These heater bees live deep within the nest. Their body temperature is actually higher than other bees, which lead to them being described as 'living radiators'.

    It sounds like science fiction, but it is just another role within the hive. The main job of heater bees is to maintain the temperature within the brood, as slight changes in temperature can dramatically affect the development of pupae.

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