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How do bees survive in winter?

Posted on January 09 2018

Winter is truly upon us! And as we notice the lack of twittering birds above and turn up our collars to brave the cold you may notice something strange… where are the bees?

Bears hibernate, birds migrate… but where are our buzzing friends? Like all of nature’s creatures, bees have been innately programmed to survive in the colder months and they do this in a variety of unique ways.

As hive temperatures drop, bees gather in the hive to form a ‘winter cluster’.

Much like a penguin huddle, they band together to share warmth and to insulate and protect the queen bee. As you can imagine the queen bee remains at the centre of the cluster whilst the worker bees constantly rotate from the inside to the outside of the cluster so that no worker bee becomes too cold. As they group together they flutter their wings and their bodies shiver to ensure a continuous use of energy which keeps the hive warm until the outsides temperatures begin to rise.

The temperature within the cluster can reach 26C, even when outside temperatures drop below freezing! The chillier it is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.

A hive of honey bees can consume as much 30lbs of honey throughout a single winter, so on warmer winter days some bees may leave the hive to gather pollen so that more honey can be made to replace the stores that are consumed in winter. Bees are unique insects as they have internal thermoregulation, this handy trait allows them to forage in cold temperatures, but they do tend to get a little drowsy and sluggish if temperatures drop too low, too fast.

If you come across a drowsy bee – read our blog post on how to revive a bee with sugary water to help it on its way back to the hive!

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