What Happens to Honey Bees in Winter

What Happens to Honey Bees in Winter

What Happens to Honey Bees in Winter

  

As the temperatures falls and there is little or no food available in the foraging area, people often wonder, how do honey bees survive? Unlike other insects, bees do not hibernate in the cold months; they are active all winter long. As the weather gets colder, the bees will start preparing for winter.

 

The queen will begin to slow down laying eggs and eventually pretty much stops altogether. During the winter, the worker bees have one goal: protecting the queen until spring. They will do whatever it takes to reach this goal. As the colony comes to the conclusion that the season is coming to an end all the drones (male bees) are kicked out to die. As no virgin queens will be created they are just extra mouths to feed during the winter.

 

Once temperatures reach 13°C, the worker bees will begin to cluster around the queen. The colder the temperatures get the tighter the cluster will become. To warm the cluster, the workers vibrate their wing muscles—an action which burns calories and gives off heat - to increase the hive temperature and keep the queen warm. They rotate the duty of being on the outside so that everyone can have a chance to stay warm and not get worn out.

 

The cluster of bees will move around the hive and eat honey to fuel their warmth creating venture. Clustered bees need a constant supply of food and, as the winter progresses, the cluster will slowly move toward stored honey. If the cluster loses contact with the stored honey, the bees can quickly starve.

 

The bees remain in this cluster moving around the hive to find stores of honey until the temperature begins to increase in spring. The only exception to this are warm winter days when the so called “cleansing flights” take place.

 

Bees will never foul their own hive and need to go outside to relieve themselves. In fact during their time confined to the cluster the rectum of a bee can fill half it’s abdomen(!) By the time they can get outside they can be pretty desperate!!!

 

The cluster will keep the bees (together with the all-important queen) warm and well fed until spring comes around and the whole cycle of the colony can begin again.

 

 

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