Welcome to Inside the Hive: a short series of blog posts giving you a sneak peek into what goes on in a beehive!
While for most of us the winter season is usually a cosy and relaxed time, it is the most challenging season for our bees. Although from the outside the hive looks calm in comparison to the busy buzzing during spring and summer, bees remain active inside and do not go into hibernation. Why not? Because between November and March, the bees have one very special mission: saving the Queen.
Keeping the heat up
As temperatures drop during the winter (sometimes as low as -10C in Rocherath), our bee’s main job is to keep the queen warm. Bees like it hot and cosy – who can blame them, so they will aim to keep the internal temperature of the hive at around 35C.
In order to keep the queen warm, they will form a tight cluster around her and shiver with their bodies and flap their wings in order to generate heat. It is the constant motion and release of energy which enables the hive to stay warm. Every so often, outer bees trade places with inner bees to maintain a rotation of temperature and to allow honey consumption so that no single bee gets too cold. Isn’t that adorable?
Bees who live during the winter also have a longer lifespan. A winter bee will live between 4-6 months compared to a summer bee, which only lives a few weeks. This makes sense, as the hive needs to remain strong despite the fact that the queen has stopped laying eggs.
The beekeepers job
The beekeeper will leave the bees undisturbed until temperatures reach 10C and the bees will start to swarm out again. One of the most important jobs for the beekeeper during winter is to make sure the food reserves are enough. Especially at the end of the winter, when the reserves are running low.
Thankfully, during the honey season, bees usually produce 2 to 3 times more honey than required to survive during winter. This is why we are able to enjoy their delicious honey without them running out of stock during winter.