In the winter, bees cluster together in the hive, at their food source, to keep warm. The cluster is very tight and their food supply is hopefully enough left by the beekeeper to last them through the winter. Therefore, only essential bees get to stay for winter.
Drone bees (males) are only needed for mating with a virgin queen in the spring. They do no work in the hive or outside the hive and have to be fed and groomed constantly. They are tolerated in the hive until nectar supplies run out in late fall.
Worker bees know who is essential inside the hive and who is not. Unfortunately, for the drones, they are labeled nonessential and kicked out of the hive.
Guard bees stay at the entrance to make sure they don’t get back in the hive. Without someone to feed them, these drones eventually die. The bees that are left, snuggle up and prepare for cold weather.
Where I live, we usually have a few warm days thrown in with the cold ones. On warm days, the bees loosen the cluster and fly out of the hive for some fresh air. Bees are so picky about their home, they will not go to the bathroom in the hive. These warm days allow the bees to take a much-needed potty break.
Warmer days also allow the bees to do some housekeeping. Older bees die throughout the winter so on these warm days, the housekeeper bees remove the dead and tidy up the place.
Warmer days also allow them to re-cluster around a new supply of food. Even though the hive may be full of honey, if the cluster runs out of food and the weather is still very cold, they will not break the cluster to move to a honey source maybe an inch from them. Many hives are lost due to starvation this time of year.
I worry about how much honey they do have left. I really didn’t know how much they had going into winter. The hives still feel heavy, but I will probably leave out some sugar-water for them today as we have several days of sunny, 50 degree temps forecasted. That way, if they need it, it’s there.
The little, brown glob to the left of the feeder is my dads contribution of bee food. It’s some peanut brittle he tried to make but it never set up so he stuck it in the freezer and then broke it into pieces. He NEVER wastes anything and he thinks the bees will love it. They won’t touch the peanuts, of course, but the chickens will take care of that. So far, I’ve not seen any activity on either one.
A favorite, important, and often overlooked flower for the bee is the dandelion. A weed to most people, this flower provides critical late winter food for bees. I saw some in the yard today, but they were too far away from the bee hive.
Bee don’t venture out very far when it’s cold.
If you are an anti-dandelion person, please think about the severe decline of the bee population before killing every “weed” in your yard. I understand you probably paid a lot of money for sod, but pesticides and herbicides are the biggest killer of bees and other pollinators like butterflies. So much of our food supply depends on the little bee for pollination, the least we can do is leave them a dandelion or two not drenched in chemicals.
Have a great weekend,
This blog post is linked with the Chicken-Chicks Blog Hop