Have you every wondered what happens to the bees after the long busy summer? They deserve a good rest that is for sure!
During the warm months bees would normally collect enough honey and bee pollen to keep them going over the winter months. Beekeepers add 'super' boxes to the hives for the bees to collect more honey. It is these extra super boxes that are extracted and packed for human consumption. At Sweetree we leave enough honey and bee pollen in the hive for the bees to keep strong over the the winter months.
Do Bees Hibernate?
People often think that bees hibernate over the winter months, but they do something more fascinating over the cold period. Their major purpose of the winter is to take care of the queen, so she can re-colonize the hive in spring.
In late autumn, when they have their stores of honey for the winter, they throw all the drones (male bees) out of the hive to die. They cannot afford to feed extra mouths and the queen does not need them for mating over this period.
Bees stop flying when the temperatures drop down to around 10 degree celsius. They stay inside the hive and go into a big huddle to keep as warm as possible, this is called a winter cluster. The queen is kept inside the cluster to keep her warm and safe. The colder the temperature the more compact the cluster becomes. The worker bees create heat by shivering and they also move back and forth between the inner part of the cluster and the outer part. In this way no bee will freeze in very cold climates.
They usually don't fly outside the hive as there are no flowers in bloom, therefore no pollen or nectar is available. But on nice sunny winter days you can see bees flying short distances out of the hive and then quickly returning, this is to eliminate body waste.
When it gets closer to spring I'll talk about what bees do in spring-time.