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What do honeybees get up to in the Autumn & Winter?

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Ever thought about what honeybees get up to this time of year? As the weather is getting cooler and trees are just beginning to change to their brilliant Autumn colours, what are our honeybees up to? How do they survive the colder months ahead - do they hibernate?

What honeybees do is even more fascinating than hibernation. A strong, healthy hive will form a cluster. This is a strong ball of bees that covers a number of frames and usually happens in the vertical centre of the hive. The size of the cluster will depend on how many bees are in the hive and what the temperatures are outside. There is the temperature of the bee cluster and the temperature outside the cluster. The bees only heat the cluster.

If the outer temperatures hit -5C, the outer shell of bees will start to flex their thorax muscles to warm themselves up. The thorax muscles are attached to the wings, but the wings don’t move - only the muscles. Sometimes the bees on the outside of the cluster will move in towards the center to get warm with the inner ones moving out. The bees cluster where the honey is stored, and as the bees use the honey in that area, they will move across or up to other stores. Unfortunately, if it gets very cold and the cluster is small, the bees may not be able to get to the honey and could die.

In the autumn, we check that Wesley Cottage Bee colonies are healthy and strong, and have plenty of stores to get them though the winter (about 40lbs per hive). We also insulate the hive roofs to help them retain warmth!

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