How Honeybees Survive Winter Weather

by Katy - Bee Missionary January 27, 2020

How Honeybees Survive Winter Weather

Honeybees know how to plan ahead, and what we see going on all summer long with bees foraging thousands of wildflowers, herbs, flowers and trees to bring nectar and pollen back to hive has more than one purpose.

It is most certainly intended to feed the colony on a daily basis. But it is also to build up the reserve store of honey the bees will need to survive the winter. Daris Wills of Wills Beekeeping & Homebrewing Supplies in Shady Springs, West Virginia, says most of the bees’ buzzing around flowers in the warm weather and their hard work is so they won’t starve in the winter.

In winter, honey bees must stay warm and have food to survive. In areas where the temperatures will drop in winter, honeybee worker bees must focus on staying warm and having food so they can survive the winter. Even as the weather changes and temperatures drop outside the hive, the worker bees will cluster around the queen bee and vibrate to keep themselves all warm. This helps them build heat, and the cluster can be 50 degrees on the edges and 90 degrees near the queen at the center.  That takes a lot of energy, and energy expenditure requires food.

this 3:22-minute video by B&K Bees addresses the question of how much honey to give your bees for the winter.  

If a colony runs out of honey before spring, the bees will freeze to death. Beekeepers like Wills supplement their hives with food. He usually uses dry feed like sugar cake or sugar patty.

Winter bees tend to live considerably longer than summer bees. A winter bee can live 4-6 months compared to a summer bee that lives 4-6 weeks. 

On warmer winter days, bees take what are called ‘cleansing flights’ which are better known as bathroom breaks. You’ll know if your bees took a bathroom break because the snow around the hive will show little brown spots.

Most humans would suffer from cabin fever after just a few days cooped up in a cabin out in the middle of a frozen landscape. Imagine how the honeybees huddle and vibrate for months on end in such close quarters and wait for a fine day here and there to take a bathroom break… just more evidence that the honeybee is a remarkable and selfless creature.

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Katy - Bee Missionary
Katy - Bee Missionary

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