When winter comes around each year, people cozy up by the fireplace, birds fly south, and bears hibernate—but what about honeybees? Like other wild creatures, bees have their own unique way of dealing with the cold weather and surviving the winter months. You may or may not know about honey bee behavior, but you should know what bees do when it gets cold outside.
They Gather in the Hive
Because it’s much too cold to spend time outside, honeybees gather together in their hives. Despite popular belief, bees don’t hibernate like many other animals; in fact, they stay busy all winter. Although they no longer forage for nectar, bees work together to protect the queen and brood while keeping the hive warm enough for the colony to survive.
Work for Warmth
While we humans tend to cozy up inside our homes during the winter months, bees don’t sit around doing nothing. In fact, worker bees gather at the center of the hive and vibrate to create friction and keep the hive warm. Even in low winter temperatures, the inside of a beehive stays in the upper 90s, thanks to the bees’ hard work.
Although the queen slows her egg-laying during the winter months, it doesn’t stop completely. As a result, the workers must keep her and the brood warm until spring.
Eat Their Honey Stores
Even though many people believe bees produce honey for us, they actually make it to feed their colony and survive the winter months. They put in extra work during the summer and fall months to make enough honey to last through the winter. Although beekeepers can harvest the excess, they must be careful not to take too much from the hive, as the bees must eat on these honey stores until spring.
Take Cleansing Flights
You may wonder where bees use the restroom, and they don’t do it inside the hive, as they prefer to keep tidy living quarters. Instead, they take cleansing flights, meaning they leave the hive to fly and do their business on the move. After that, they return to the hive and get back to work. When the weather is relatively cold, and there’s snow on the ground, you may see yellow streaks outside the hive from bees’ cleansing flights.
Understanding what bees do when it gets cold outside can help you become a better beekeeper. Although you may want to harvest all of the raw honeycomb honey possible, you must leave enough for your colony to survive through the winter season. They may not require much attention during the cold months, but you should still check on them without disturbing their warming efforts.