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Winter for Honeybees

Ever thought about what happens to honeybees during the winter?

Although the common honeybee (Apis mellifera) isn’t native to North America, they’re tough enough to withstand our cold, harsh winters.

Honeybees have clever methods to keep their colonies alive and healthy throughout the winter months. These methods include harvesting nectar from flowers to build wax cells (honeycombs) and making honey to store within the honeycombs.

Once the cells are full and the honey is ready, the bees will cap off the honey cells with wax. Then in the winter when the bees need access to food, they open the cells and feed the colony with the stored honey.

Another method bees deploy to survive the winter is to keep their hives warm. Even in the middle of winter the center of a hive can reach temperatures of 32 – 37°C. These high temperatures are especially important for the normal development of their young (brood).

Bees keep their hives warm by gathering closely together and forming what’s referred to as a winter cluster. The winter cluster of bees vibrate their flight muscles very quickly. The vibrations create friction and heat up the hive, keeping the colony safe and warm.

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