What do Bees eat in the Winter?

At what Temperatures do Bees come out? What Temperature is intolerable for Bees? How do Bees prepare for Winter, and Who is a Winter Bee? What do Bees eat in Winter, and What happens to the Beehive? Why do Bees die during Winter, and How can Beekeepers save them?
what do bees eat in the winter
Photo by Scott Hogan on Unsplash

According to the reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES), the estimated number of managed beehives in the world at present is about 81 million. I bet you must have seen some around your areas too, mostly during spring. But, what do bees eat in the winter? Well, today you will get to know – what do bees do in the winter, in what month do bees hibernate, at what temperature do bees come out, at what temperature do bees die, and what happens to beehives in the winter.

1. What is the Adequate Temperature for Bees?

When the temperatures are between 15° and 40° Celsius (60° and 105° Fahrenheit) honey bees are most active. Honey bees can search for their food at temperatures around 55° Fahrenheit. (See When is it Safe to Remove a Wasp Nest?)

2. At what Temperature do Bees die?

Honey bees flying back to their hive (artificial): what do bees eat in the winter 4
Photo by Damien TUPINIER on Unsplash

Though bees can tolerate and search for their food on a hot day when the temperature is 40° Celsius (105° Fahrenheit). But if the temperatures are somewhere more than 45° Celsius (113° Fahrenheit), bees cannot tolerate such high temperatures and die. (See Why Do Bees Sting People?)

3. How do Bees prepare for Winter?

During summer, bees collect nectar and pollen and then convert them into honey. Bees are so enthusiastic about producing honey reserves for winters that the quantity they produce is almost 2 to 3 times more than they need. The queen bee lays a special caste of bees known as winter bees. And their main task is to keep the colony of her beehive alive till spring arrives. (See What do Newts Eat in a Pond?)

4. What is the work of a Winter Bee?

What do bees eat in the winter? Note that the special cast of bees is fed a diet rich in protein which makes the larvae develop. These bees have fatty bodies that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and other essential molecules. Winter bees help the colony to regulate temperatures during winter and care for the new brood that is about to hatch in the spring. (See Why Do Bugs Like Lights?)

5. What do Bees do in the Winter?

Cluster of honey bees: what do bees eat in the winter 3
Photo by Massimiliano Latella on Unsplash

During winters when the temperature falls below 10° Celsius (50° Fahrenheit) honey bees return to their beehives. During winters, the worker bees are divided into two clusters, namely a dense outer mantel and a loose inner core. The outer circles cluster tightly with each other and vibrate their bodies to generate heat. They keep the queen inside the inner core where the temperature is between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The outer core expands or contracts depending on the temperature outside. (See 8 True Bumblebee Flying Facts)

6. What do Bees eat in the Winter?

During the rest of the year, honey bees accumulate their food resources in the cells of their beehives. And during fall and winter, they feed on the honey which they had stored. During winters, they do not get their main food source, that is, pollen, and so they had to survive on honey. So, what do bees eat in the winter – whatever they have stored during the summer. (See Do Anteaters Eat Ants?)

7. What happens to Beehives in the Winter?

After the bees retreat to their hive, there is not a single bee crawling on the surface of the hive. The hive may get covered with snow also. But as per experts, snow is not a danger for the hive if the bees are producing enough heat inside the hive. If the hive is at optimum temperature, then the heat will itself melt down the ice on the surface. (See Can it Rain Spiders?)

8. At What Temperature do Bees come out?

On a sunny winter morning, a honey bee decides to leave the beehive and fly into the surrounding. This flight is known as a cleansing flight. Honey bees try this to defecate somewhere else other than the hive. The temperature on such a day may be somewhere above zero degrees, but there may be snow all around. However, honey bee on a cleansing flight sometimes does not return, and you can find them on the ground in the snow somewhere or near their hives. (See Do Bees Have Ears?)

9. What month do Bees Hibernate?

A honey bee flying towards a cherry clossom flower on a winter day
Photo by Craig Strahorn on Unsplash

Unlike every other mammal, bees do not hibernate. The only reason you cannot spot any honey bees during winters is that they become inactive and are conserving their energy to keep themselves warm. They enter their hives when the temperature starts to fall below 12° Celsius (55° Fahrenheit). Also, you can see a couple of bees on a warm winter day unlike bears or other mammals that sleep all winter long. (See How to Get Rid of Gnats without Apple Cider Vinegar?)

10. Can you Wrap a Beehive?

Touching a beehive is not a good idea in itself. But wrapping a beehive during winters is more dangerous for the bees because the carbon dioxide released by the bees will not escape the hive and the moisture will remain intact inside the hive. This moisture will be like a leaking roof for them which will eventually decrease the overall temperature of the hive and that reduced temperature can be dangerous for the bees. (See Slug Vs Snail)

11. Why do Bees die in Beehive during Winters?

Not every bee colony survives the winter. The reason can be one or all of the following:

  • The population of the worker bees is not enough in the hive.
  • There is no sufficient supply of food in the hive.
  • The winter bee is born with some virus or infection. This is another thing that needs to be considered, other than knowing what do bees eat in the winter.
  • The moisture content in the bee hive increased during the winter.
  • There was poor ventilation in the hive.
  • Improper check for the varroa mites (they are external parasites that attack and feed on honeybees). 

All these reasons can destroy lots of beehives during the winter season. (See Why do Hermit Crabs need Shells?)

12. How to keep Bees alive during the Winter?

An artificial beehive: what do bees eat in the winter 2
Photo by Alexis Mora Angulo on Unsplash

Although, it is a natural process and your intervention is not required but if you are a beekeeper then it is your responsibility to maintain the artificial hives properly for them. Take a look at the points mentioned here for the next winter.

  • The bees should be native to your state so that they can adapt to the environment.
  • Make sure to do a thorough mite check before closing the hive for winter. If not so then the bees will be strained during the winters and may not survive.
  • Make sure the population and food supply in the hive is enough for winter
  • Self-feed the colony if they are short on food supply. You can place pollen patties or stick fondant on the frames of the artificial hive.
  • Apart from knowing what do bees eat in the winter, make sure the hive has enough holes or passages to get rid of excess moisture during the winter. You can use a shim (a thin, tapered, or wedged piece of material, used to fill small gaps or spaces between objects) or drill holes in the box (See Do Insects Sleep?)

13. When is Winter over for them?

Well, it depends on the area they are native to. But most probably the winter for them ends as the first flower blooms and spring is on the door. However, beekeepers still have to take care of the regular food supply to the colony until spring is at its peak.

So, today you got to know about – what do bees eat in the winter, along with in what month do bees hibernate, at what temperature do bees come out, at what temperature do bees die, and what happens to beehives in the winter. It is time to share about what do bees do in the winter with others along with your friends and family too. (Also read  What is the Life Cycle of a Newt?)

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