It’s getting to the heart of winter for me with the coldest days, hard winds. Although the sun is bright and days are getting longer, these are the days I could hunker down under blankets only to emerge when there’s a warm breeze wafting up from the south. Dream on, that breeze is months away.
Last winter I watched my hive and imagined the ball of bees shivering to keep warm. I hoped they had enough honey were strong enough to get to it to keep their energy levels up.
Bees survive the winter by clustering into a tight ball of workers around the queen. This cluster generates enough heat to keep the queen warm (98.5 degrees F) enough to eat and survive until spring when she begins laying again. The drones have long been kicked out by this time of year and one of the most interesting phenomena about bees in winter is that they essentially stay the same age all winter long. If a worker started winter as a young nurse bee, she’ll continue in that stage until spring when she resumes the normal aging of a honey bee. Fascinating!
Bees do fly out on still sunny days so they can poop. I did see that last winter because we had a fair amount of snow. It was easy to see their little dark bodies zoom out about 20 feet then loop back into the hive. There was also tiny dark bee poop in the snow in front of the hive. I guess you don’t want your clothesline anywhere near their “clensing flight” path, bee poop is impossible to wash out.
No hive this winter, still heartbroken that they died. I’ll be painting and building frames for my new hive this spring which will keep me occupied and out from under the covers. I’ve been reading and studying beekeeping as well in hopes that I’ll be a better beekeeper for my next hive.