As I continue to watch the bees in my yard moving around on the fall flowers, I started to wonder what bees do in the winter. I should know this, right? Well, in Colorado they don’t migrate, and they don’t hibernate (apparently in other places, some species do). So how do they survive the cold around here?
They cuddle and shiver to keep each other warm. Okay, the more precise, scientific explanation is that they cluster tightly together in the hive. To generate heat, they vibrate their wing muscles. Worker bees circulate through the cluster, sometimes on the edges and sometimes in the warmer center. The queen, of course, remains in the center which can be as warm as 90° F! The size of the colony is also important; the more bees in the colony, the better the hive’s fate will be.
As you can imagine, this requires a lot of energy, so the hive must be adequately stocked with honey. According to Colorado State University, that amount is 80-100 pounds. That is a lot of honey! Another fun fact, on warmer winter days, bees may leave the hive. And, ahem, when they do, that’s when they go to the bathroom! That is also when they remove dead bees from the hive. Who knew bees were so tidy?
Alas, as the days get shorter and the air cooler, the bees will start to hunker down. But now that I know they might be active on warmer days (approximately 50° F), I will be on the lookout for bees this winter!