We bring out our winter coats and scarves as soon as the temperatures drop. There is therefore a good chance that the bees also prefer to stay indoors in their warm cocoon.
How do bees prepare for winter?
We bring out our winter coats and scarves as soon as the temperatures drop. There is therefore a good chance that the bees also prefer to stay indoors in their warm cocoon. When winter arrives, we pull out all our habits: we drink a cup of hot tea next to our heater and exchange our summer clothes for a warmer alternative. It is no different with bees. Or not quite.
As soon as the temperature drops below 7 - 10°C, the bees sit on one bunch. That's really just a big ball of bees, all packed nicely together around the stored food they've collected over the previous months. That is one of the first, and perhaps most important preparations for the winter; the search and storage of honey.
The bees are out all season looking for nectar and pollen to stock up for winter. They repeat this procedure constantly and endlessly, until their hives are filled to the brim. All combs are carefully sealed so that the remaining moisture can evaporate and the honey does not start to ferment.
Bees not only close the combs: they close every small gap or hole they encounter that could be affected by humidity or wind with propolis. The hive is completely propolized by the bees so the heat in the beehive remains around a pleasant 20-25°C degrees during the winter months. They can’t just turn on the heater as easily as we do. The bees have to create the heat themselves through vibrations. They create heat by dislocating their wings and using their wing muscles to start vibrating. Imagine that 5000 to 10000 bees doing that simultaneously. There you go, there is enough friction to achieve the lovely temperature in the hive.
TIP: It is very important not to open the beehive during the winter months. You’ll break the seal made of propolis. Furthermore, you’ll allow the cold and wind to enter the hive. The temperatures will drop to such an extent that the bees cannot compensate for the temperature loss. And resealing the holes is unfortunately not an option during the winter.
The cluster of bees slowly moves back and forth during the winter, always following the food. The winter bees, in contrast to the summer bees, take things a bit more slowly. It makes them live much longer. Beekeepers are always afraid to wait and see whether the people have made it through the winter. Fortunately, there are a few moments during the cold in which the bees stick their heads outside for a while. As soon as the temperature rises above 10°C, the bees take flight to operate cleaning flights close to the beehive.
Will bees survive the winter? That depends - to a large extent - on the honey they can collect during the year. But it also depends on the beekeepers. They have to ensure that the hive offers sufficient honey and they shouldn’t disturb the bees during the harsh winter months.