I’ve been telling people how excited I am for the weather to warm up so we can check on our bees. Invariably, one of the most common questions I get first is – What do bees do in the winter?
Some people think they ‘sleep’ like bears and hibernate. But bees are too busy for that.
Others think they just ‘die off’ and then come back again. But it’s not like they can just lay their eggs underground that stay dormant and hatch in the spring.
These tough ladies spend the better part of 5 months, especially this year, buried under piles of snow. Can you even find the hives? (I dug them out a little to help you out)
To put things into perspective, each of these hives are stacked on about 2 feet of pallets. So ya… totally buried.
So what do they do?
Normally bees live for 45 days. They spend their lives doing their specialized bee jobs: guarding the hive, gathering pollen and nectar, tending to the queen, building comb, etc. They use up all of their energy and stores flying 100s of miles and working hard.
So initially, I thought that over the winter it would be business as usual, minus the gathering pollen and nectar part. Every couple of weeks I would go and clear off the snow from the entrances to make sure the bees could come and go when they needed to go poo and stuff. Occasionally there would be dead bees at the entrance that had been pushed out by the other bees. So I figured the circle of life continued.
Boy was I wrong. I was educated by my bee guru Scott Ferrier:
As it turns out, ‘winter bees’ are yet another set of specialized bees. Their job is to buzz around the queen bee to keep her warm and tend to her. When they get tired, they just rotate out so the queen bee is always protected. So while the regular bees expend all of their energy and fat stores flying all around, the winter bees can conserve some of that and hence live longer. I call them my Asian bees because they live so much longer than the regular bees – they live out the entire winter season!!
Workaholics – heed this advice!! We can all learn a little bit from our winter bees. Sometimes you just need to settle down and care for the ones most important to us, instead of flying around all the time chasing nectar. You’ll stay warm and live a little bit longer 😊
It’s been a long, cold winter, checking in and wishing the best for our bees. Check out what we’ve been doing so far this year: