Since I became a beekeeper, many people have asked about what we do with the bees in winter, often mistakenly saying, “They hibernate, don’t they?”
As you can see from the above video (taken today when the temperatures were in the 50s), this isn’t true.
Bees remain active in the winter, forming a “bee ball” to keep warm when the temperature drops. When it’s warm, they take the opportunity for cleansing flights. (You can read more about this in my earlier post: https://thebyrdandthebees.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/bee-poop-a-winter-peek-under-the-hood/).
The bee ball is continually in motion as bees from the cold, outer edges are replaced by bees from the warm center, thus keeping all (or at least most) of the bees warm enough to survive.
However, if a hive is too small, there may not be enough bees to keep the temperature high enough for survival, and the bees will freeze to death.
Starvation is another danger, caused by the bees not producing or storing enough honey for winter, having a greedy beekeeper take too much honey, or because the bee ball is too far from the honey to be able to reach it.
Winter is always worrisome for beekeepers, but for now, both our hives appear alive and well.
Did you notice Buzzers’ Roost bees seem to prefer the top exit, while FreeBees like the bottom? Why? My guess is it reflects where most of the bees are in the hive, which likely means that’s where the bulk of their honey is.
How do they decide where to store their honey? No one knows but the bees, and they aren’t talking. Folk wisdom says bees tend to start lower in the hive and move up, but we all know bees don’t always follow the rules.
For more information, check out this post from “Keeping Backyard Bees”: https://www.keepingbackyardbees.com/what-do-bees-do-all-winter/