Bees are amazing creatures! Did you know that even in winter, their behaviour is very interesting? Urban beekeeper Erica tells us all about it in this month’s bee update.
Now that wintery temperatures have arrived, the bees hardly leave their hive any more. They will stay inside for the whole winter, feeding on their accumulated food resources. Which in nature would include honey. But because I have “harvested” this delicious food at the end of the summer, they now need some extra feeding. I do that by giving them sugar water. So basically, I spend quite some time dissolving huge amounts of sugar in water! (See the big bags of sugar in the picture below!) Along with the sugar water, the bees have stored nectar and pollen to get through winter. I hope that will be enough for them!
Forming a Winter Bunch
The colder it is, the closer the bees stick together. They form a so-called “winter bunch” that provides warmth for them. A lot of warmth, that is. Temperatures in the middle can rise up to 35 degrees Celsius! The winter bunch is a very smart system that is constantly in contact with their food reserves. Over the course of winter the bees will slowly glide alongside the food. That is only possible because the bees to not hibernate. But then, not going into hibernation is also the very reason why the bees need the food supply.
No Men Allowed
The winter bunch consists of worker bees and a queen, all female. Before winter, all the male bees have been driven out of the hive. Those poor things will not survive the winter without the hive and food. Apart from the male bees, the “summer bees” (short living female worker bees) will not survive either. At the end of summer, the beehive consists of longer living “winter bees”. These bees are needed to help the hive get through winter.
Keeping the Hive Clean
Nice to know: bees are actually really clean and don’t drop faeces in the hive. They detain it the whole winter. Only when spring arrives will they go out to release their droppings. That moment is called the “cleaning flight”. Through the entire year, only the queen is allowed to use the hive as a lavatory. But that will also be cleaned up immediately after.
Winter Chores for Beekeepers
So when the bees are save in their warm hives, what is left to do for us beekeepers? As winter does not require a lot of outdoor activities from us, it is the perfect moment to increase our knowledge. I like to read a lot of bee literature, watch Youtube videos and maintain contacts with other beekeepers through meetings.
And of course there are enough other small chores to do! Melting wax, for example, to make some nice candles. Or using bits of leftover honey to make mead, which is an alcoholic drink consisting of fermented honey and water. And when all that is done, I will start working on a list of things to do when the days are getting longer again.
That was it again for this month’s bee update! Thank you once again Erica, for all the information and the lovely pictures!
Sneak Preview: Friday, I will be sharing a delicious recipe featuring Erica’s honey with you. I will not yet tell you what it is, but it does include honey, cranberries and cinnamon!