Winter and Bees

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.

Summertime bees

When times are good, everyone gets to stay

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 must be vigilent at all times.

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.

Winter is a time to conserve energy for the bee.

Closed until Spring

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.

In winter, housekeeper bees have the task of removing dead bees in the hive during a warm spell.

Housekeeper bees remove dead bees from the hive.


In winter, dead bees are removed from the hive during a warm spell.

these dead bees are right below the entrance

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.


rocks in the sugar-water keep the bees from drowning

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.

The lowly dandelion is one of the first flowers to bloom for the bee.

The lowly dandelion


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



About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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14 Responses to Winter and Bees

  1. Becky says:

    I always learn something when I read your blog. 🙂 I keep thinking about becoming a beekeeper. Today’s post will make me think about it some more!


    • If you are thinking about it, check with your local county extension office to see if any bee classes are available. We had 3 classes – with each class being 3 hours long and they were free. They were very informative and the local beekeepers group very helpful. Classes usually start around the end of january Because bees have to be ordered early if you decide to do it.


  2. Pretty harsh treatment of the male bees. Doesn’t seem very fair. What do they do in the spring when they need some male bees but all have been thrown out to perish in the freezing cold? In my garden we will never run out of dandelions.


  3. Thanks for the ‘atta girl! Love your bee post. Great pix very informative. We both garden in NWA.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Winter and Bees | The Blonde Gardener | World Organic News

  5. This is a really interesting post! I hadn’t considered dandelions to be bee food but I will now. I just have to get my husband on board with the idea!


  6. Dawn says:

    Just fascinating, Brenda! I look forward to your posts because I always learn something new! ♡


  7. Bill says:

    We lost our hive last year, even though there will still plenty of honey in it. They’d been out flying around a warm day a couple of weeks beforehand. But a vicious cold snap did them in. Frustrating and left me wondering what I should have done differently.

    I like how you’re feeding them. We used to use a top feeder and I hated how many bees would drown (even with leaves and twigs in it). The front feeder didn’t have that problem but wouldn’t be suitable for winter. We have some of the plastic waterers like the one in the picture that we use for brooding chicks. In the future (once we get our new hive) now I’ll use it for winter feeding (with rocks in it, of course)!


    • I hate that you lost a hive. We are so dependent on weather. We are having crazy warm weather here but it won’t last. I have a guy that lives by me that has 20 hives and he has been raising bees for 40 years. This is how he feeds his. I figure he would know the best ways!


  8. Thanks so much for all of that interesting information. I’ve never seen some of those photos of the discarded dead bodies of bees before. I also completely agree. My garden and yard a bee friendly. Not a pesticide in sight. ~~Dee


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