Many of you would probably think, that all insects hibernate during the cold wintertime, well honey bees don’t and now I will tell you why!
Why Honeybees Don`t Hibernate As Other Insects?
Honeybees do not hibernate in the winter because they have to keep the nest and more important their queen warm. By gathering around the mother bee, forming a “winter cluster”, they shiver and generate heat. 80 F at the center and around 46 F at the edge of the hive!
How Do Bees Warm The Hive in The Winter?
As mentioned above, bees use their bodies to warm the queen and the hive. By forming a cluster with all bees on top of each other and shivering, they manage not only to create heat but to also keep it where it is most needed. For the queen in the middle to feel well, she needs a temperature of 80 degrees, at the edge of the hive the temperature is around 46 degrees, everything under that is unpleasant or even life-threatening for the bees. To keep every bee warm, they tend to rotate, so everyone can get his spot in the middle. For a beehive to manage to keep this process running, it has to have a lot of honey stored- average calculations show, that the worker bees need around 30 pounds of honey to maintain their body temperature and to have enough energy to keep the queen warm.
Keeping it warm inside the hive is of high importance because if it gets too cold, all the stored honey will freeze and they will not have anything to feed the queen or themselves. On warmer or sunny days, the worker bees can afford to go outside and relieve themselves, because there is a strict rule: No pooping inside the hive.
What Temperature Kills Bees?
If the bee’s body temperature drops below 41 degrees, they cannot operate their bodies anymore, which leads to them not being able to shiver and freeze to death. Inside the beehive, bees who are cold can be brought deeper inside the hive where it is warmer, but if they get cold the outside, nothing can save them.
Are There Bees That Hibernate?
Actually yes, the bumblebee hibernates. In the late summer, the bumblebee queen lays lots of eggs that contain only queen bees. Those queens mate and fly away in the search of a suitable place to nest throughout the winter times. Those nesting spots are well protected and hidden, but they are only as big as she is herself, because when she nests in the winter, she is actually alone, with no other bees. Because only the queen bumblebee hibernates, all the workers, guards and other bees die.
While in hibernation, the bumblebee queen is only sleeping, she is neither working nor eating. You might ask yourself, how bumblebees do not go extinct? Well as mentioned before, the queen mates and then she flies away, so she is fertile and ready to lay eggs. When she finds the perfect spot for her winter sleep, she lays eggs with worker bees and actually lays down on them, like a chicken. When those workers hatch in the spring, they take over the household and care of the queen. And the cycle continues again, till the next late summer comes, where the same queen lays again 10-12 new queen eggs, which hatch, mate and fly away on the search for their own hibernation spot.
|Only the queen
|Only the queen
|Where are they hibernating or staying through the winter
|Inside the hive
|Inside a safe spot, either a tree cavity or a hole in the ground
|Inside a tree cavity or a hole in the ground or inside a building or under a rotten log
|In abandoned nests or tunnels or building walls
|How long do they hibernate
|Till very early spring
|Beginning of September to the end of April
|From late September till late February in warmer regions or till late May in colder areas
|Is the hive alive during winter
|Everyone besides the male drones, they get kicked out
|Only the queen, the rest of the hive dies
|Only the queen, the rest of the hive dies
|Only the adults are (36 days and older bees)
Are All Bee`s Allowed to Stay Inside The Hive In The Winter?
Keeping the mother bee and the hive warm, costs the worker bees a lot of energy and to get this energy back, they have to consume honey. Since the queen bee is not laying eggs in the winter period, all-male drones are kicked out of the hive, to lower the honey consummation. There is also a higher concentration of working bees and less other bees as guards or scouts since there is no chance of being attacked by other beehives.
Do Bees Sleep at Night?
Yes, bees do sleep at night, there are only a few bees, like the guards, who are awakened and fulfill some mandatory jobs and tasks. Interesting article for you: Do Bees Sleep at Night?
How Long do Bees Live?
Honey worker bees that hatch between spring and late autumn, live around 6 weeks. However, bees that are born in the winter period live much longer, in fact, they have to live the whole winter long so they can take care of their queen and warm the hive. As mentioned above, bees throw the male drones out of the hive, which follows the mother bee not being able to mate, so she cannot lay eggs.
What do Bees Eat in the Winter?
Bees eat honey, nectar and pollen in the winter and that is actually the reason why they collect pollen and nectar all year long. An average populated hive needs around 30 pounds of honey, to survive the winter period. It is very important for a beekeeper to take care of his hives in the early spring, where starvation can occur.
Does Climate Change affect Bees?
Climate change affects bees in a bad way. With temperature spiking, especially in the winter or early spring, many of the plants start blooming because it is warm outside and then very cold weather occurs and they die. The warmth on the other hand inspires honeybees to leave the nest and start gathering resources for their hive, but since all the pollen and nectar-giving plants are dead or have not bloomed yet, they come back empty-handed. Each flight costs them a lot of energy so they have to consume honey, which they already have eaten throughout the cold winter, this is how a vicious cycle starts, and they starve to death.
Bumblebees are also affected badly by climate change. As we already know, bumblebee queens hibernate throughout the winter and when it gets warmer they wake up from their long sleep. And if they wake up too early and their worker bees hatch and there are no plants outside, the small hive will starve to death since it has no reserves of honey stashed. Another factor is the very warm summer. Bumblebees have a very thick hairy coat around their body, which makes them suitable for the early cold spring months, they are in fact one of the first pollinators of the year. If the temperature gets too warm, there comes a moment where they cannot adapt and they just overheat and die.
Honey bees do not hibernate, but they reduce their population to a minimum, where most of the bees are worker bees whose job is to warm the queen. Other bees like the bumblebee, carpenter bee and even the wasp do hibernate in small holes in the ground, or in tree cavities, or in old rotten logs. Moreover, at different times throughout the spring, all those bees emerge again from their nests, build up their family, and gather supplies. Even though many of the bees die, there is not a single bee family that is being wiped out because of the winter.