This Is Where All the Honeybees Hide in the Winter Months

Plenty of animals migrate or hibernate, but what do bees do?

beesJaroslav Moravcik

Everybody’s always talking about the bee’s knees, but nobody ever talks about the bee’s winter vacation plans. When it starts to get brisk outside, honeybees make themselves scarce, that’s for sure. But where exactly do they end up? Do they migrate or hibernate?

In climates that dip below 50° F in the wintertime, they sort of hibernate. If the climate stays more moderate, they just carry on business as usual. In the colder climates, the hibernation process can be a bit grim, however. (Speaking of grim, did you know that if all the bees went extinct, your morning cup of coffee may never be the same again?)

In order to stay warm, the bees will retreat to their hive and form a winter cluster. The queen sits at the center of the cluster, while the outer shell is composed of the female worker bees. The cluster actively rotates, periodically allowing the outermost bees to cycle into the inner layers to stay warm. But this cluster breakdown leaves out the third caste of bees, the male drone bees, because all are left out in the cold to die.

The lifespan of each bee caste varies based on the season and based on their respective reproduction cycle. Worker bees usually have a lifespan of five to six weeks, but come winter time, they can survive for more than five months, as they’re less active and can redirect more of their energy toward survival. Drones tend to live only a few weeks and will die either after mating with the queen or after failing to mate with the queen and then being left out in the cold to die from starvation (brutal). The queen tends to live two to three years but has been known to live up to five years.

The temperature toward the center of the cluster hits up to 100° F, while the outermost temperature tends to hover around 50° F. If you encounter a beehive in the winter time, don’t fret, as there will be negligible activity when it comes to the ins-and-outs of the hive. But don’t go poking it with a stick, either.

Remember, the bees aren’t exactly checking off a calendar waiting for the first official day of winter. If you have an unseasonably warm winter with temperatures floating firmly above 50° F, the bees will just carry on their business as usual, and you should still be on your toes. And once spring officially rolls back around, you can plant these five flowers that bees love when it comes to pollination.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

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