Honeybees and their beekeepers all around our area were delighted by the 50F temperatures during the day on New Year’s Eve.
During the winter honeybees are not dormant, various things happen inside the hive depending on what’s happening with the weather.
Consuming honey is the primary activity of bees this time of the year. The energy they get from their stored food allows them to generate the warmth that is needed to keep them alive through the winter. The heat each individual bee produces is not very much and if left alone by itself, a single bee will die from the cold.
Honeybees are not solitary insects. They cooperate with one another in running the hive, that includes keeping themselves at a temperature warm enough to survive the winter. They manage to do that by bunching together in a spherical cluster. This cluster will be smaller and tighter when the temperatures are cold so that the heat is held in. If temperatures rise, the cluster of bees will expand somewhat. If the temperature rises enough, they will break out of the cluster and begin moving around the hive.
You have to keep in mind that all of the honey that they consume is digested by the bee’s body and waste products are produced.
On New Year’s Eve, the temperature in our area reached 50F. This along with the couple of hours of sunshine motivated the bees to fly from the hive in what is known as a “cleansing flight”.
Honeybees will not defecate in their hive if they can help it. So they hold “it” for as long as they can waiting for a chance to take to the air and relieve themselves outside away from the hive.
The bees I captured this fall were out in large numbers during the day on New Year’s Eve. The air was filled with the sound of flying bees for a couple of hours until the rain moved in and forced them back into the hive.
This break from the winter weather helped them a lot. Hopefully this small colony of bees will make it through the winter and eventually become a productive hive.
The most uncertain period for them still lies ahead.