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The Mysterious Winter Survival of Honey Bees

Honey bees create winter clusters to keep warm

(Mirror Daily, United States) – The cold season is quieter when it comes to nature sounds as animals hibernate but let us shed some light on the mysterious winter survival of honey bees.

We usually forget about bees and other insects during the winter as they tend to disappear and until spring comes and nature comes back to life it’s like many of them never existed. We’ve heard about animals hibernating and about birds migrating but it’s quite curious to understand how tiny defenseless insects can survive the cold, the wind and the snow of winter.

Apparently there are some types of bees that hibernate pretty much as bears do. Those are the carpenter bees. They drill tunnels into wood and crawl there for winter. Bumble bees have another way of survival. Actually the only one that gets to save itself is the queen. It takes shelter and sleeps until spring when she lays eggs and restarts the colony.

However, honey bees are the restless ones that don’t hibernate at all, but rather work all winter, or if not work, at least they are somehow active. In this way, one colony can survive for several years. Their secret is to keep close together, otherwise they get cold as they are just tiny insects after all.

What they do resembles a group hug. When it gets colder than 57 degrees they gather around the queen be, forming a “winter cluster”. But they don’t just gather and sit. They shake and vibrate and generate heat. Their wings keep still, while their muscles vibrate.

They constantly move so as the bees found at the edge of the cluster, find their way to the center where it’s warmer. The honey bees can actually generate a lot of heat with their “winter cluster” reaching up to 93 degrees.

If the queen is young and the honey is enough, the hive can survive the winter. But they do need a large amount of honey, depending on how many they are, where they are and how severe the winter is. They may need from 30 to 90 pounds of honey.

Their main objective is to keep the queen alive. If the honey supply starts decreasing, the ones that get “left behind” are the male bees which do nothing else except mate the queen. Moreover, the honey bees also expand their lifespans during winter from just a few weeks in the warm season to a few months in the cold one.

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