What do bees do in winter?
In the cold season, bees are nowhere to be seen. But that doesn't mean they're dead. How do bees survive in winter? We give an answer.
Hot chocolate, fireplace, reading books, snuggled up in a warm wool blanket: winter is a contemplative season in which we know how to make ourselves comfortable. And many animals use the cold months to hibernate or fly south to the warmth. But bee lovers may ask themselves: What about the bees?
Bees also cuddle
Winter is definitely too cold for honey bees in temperate climates. Therefore, they retreat to their hive as soon as the temperatures drop below ten degrees. Bees generate heat by shaking their bodies and by moving close together. In this way, they heat the hive up to 37 degrees and form a kind of bee cluster. The queen bee sits in the center, surrounded by thousands of vibrating bees. However, it is not the usual summer bees that fight their way through the cold winter, but rather a slightly fatter species of bee: the winter bees. Compared to summer bees, these have a longer lifespan, around four to six months, and consist only of females - the drones, as the male bees are called, fly away from the nest.
Warm, humid, but still germ-free?
The high temperature in a beehive may seem to some like an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens. If he were, there would be no propolis . This is a resin-like mass that protects the hive from fungal infestation, bacteria and intruders of all kinds. The bees cover the inside of the hive with a thin film of propolis, keeping it hygienic. Propolis is therefore also known as the most powerful natural antibiotic in the world.
However, a beekeeper is not allowed to leave the bees alone in the winter. One of the biggest dangers for bees are the Varroa mites, which cannot be stopped by propolis. These are parasites that attack adult bees and their brood and are often responsible for bee deaths. Even if the bees are already treated against this pest in the summer, they still have to be treated again in the winter - usually with an oxalic acid solution by the beekeeper.
What do bees feed on in winter?
Anyone who works as intensively as bees on generating heat also needs energy. But in winter bees have no access to food in nature. The pollen or honeydew is missing and it is often wet. During these months the bees draw on their winter supply of honey. To ensure that every bee gets enough food, bees work as a team. The bee cluster is constantly moving: the individual bees change positions so that workers on the outside of the cluster can get more warmth or feed on the honey.
But it is not guaranteed that there will be enough honey for a colony of bees in winter. On the one hand, a mild and changeable winter can lead to bees creating a lot of brood too early and then having to feed and warm them more. On the other hand, a cold and rainy summer means that bees cannot produce enough honey for the winter. If this is the case, the beekeeper can feed the bees honey. But be careful: only honey produced by the bees themselves may be used for this purpose. Otherwise you run the risk of feeding the bees foulbrood spores and infecting them with this well-known breeding disease among bees.