Do bees have their winter sleep? What do they do during winter?

Bees make honey, bees sting, bees fly from flower to flower, bees fly about their hives, bees swarm,… and there are still so many other things that they can do! It’s true!!! Anybody knows after all, bees are hard workers! But during winter? If you have never wondered it so far, try to give me an answer now…what do they do? Do bees have their winter sleep? Today we’ll find out this together!

Do bees have their winter sleep?

Winter. Unbelievably cold. You pass in from of the apiary, no buzzing, no bees flying joyfully. Silence. Peace. In a different way, but in winter as well the apiary spread that nice feeling of peace. “But where are all the bees? Are they sleeping?”. To such a question, as a sweet reply maybe to a little child, you would probably reply: “Yes, sweetheart,bees have their winter sleep, so as to be full of energies once nature will be awaken again!”. It sounds well too. A pretty logic explanation as well considering the hardwork they have to bear for the rest of the year. BUT no, bees don’t have their winter sleep. Not at all.

And so, where do they go? Where are they all?

They are all in the beehive. Close to each other. What is sure is that they are absolutely not going to leave it! Just to be precise: this is what generally happen in winter with the usual low temperatures of this season. If it happens like last 31st December, when there was a very nice sun and mild temperatures (not normal at all, never happened before!), they leave the beehive them too to enjoy it. In that specific case the beehive is definetely too warm. Nevertheless, speaking of a normal winter, generally they don’t leave it, but they are neither in their winter sleep. They are enjoying the warm temperatures of the beehive. Very close to each other, in glomere.

Glome…what??

Another word completely new to me, learnt once entered the beekeeping world. Glomere. To make it simple, a ball made by bees. In the beehive, even if outside there might be even 0 degrees and snowing, there is always a temperature of approx. 34 degrees. Beehives are outside, under the snow. They are not sheltered in a closed warm room, they don’t have something that warm them up. Nothing. They are just as they are for the rest of the year. So how can there be such a temperature there?? The beehive is thermo-regulated by its bees, that as soon as the temperatures gets colder and colder, they don’t leave it anymore. Bees start to keep energies, to do the least possible, they get closer to each other so as to get the shape of a ball. The so called glomere.

But how is it possible? And if it’s so cold?

It’s pretty difficult that bees die for too low temperatures, they are made for perfectly thermo-regulate themselves. I will never stop to be surprised by how they are perfectly organized and made. In case, it’s easier that they’ll die for hunger during winter. For this reason the good beekeeper must be careful: first of all he has to stop to harvest honey at a certain point so as to grant enough provisions to the bees, then he had better to add some additional food right to let the bees survive the winter. Nedless to say, in this period inspections are avoided. As an alternative, you can get closer to the hive, ‘listen’ to it (for example with the tool granpa Heinz has, do you remember it?) and you can understand whether ‘Yes, bees are still there’ or not. If anybody opened the beehives with temperatures below 10-15 degrees, this would cause a serious damage and most probably the whole family would die because no longer able to reach again the needed temperature to keep on.

Just one last clarification

Always remember that the bee family gets smaller and bigger during the year. The number of the bees that are in a beehive is much lower than the summer one. In winter the beequeen stops to lay eggs. Bees can’t increase. They will start again to grow once spring will start again. During winter bees don’t have winter sleep then, but they basically do anything to keep on living with the beehive warm temperature till spring temperatures and blooming will appear again.

And the beekeeper?

Do bees have their winter sleep? Beekeepers not!

No, neither the beekeeper has his winter sleep. Me too I was wondering what a beekeeper does during winter when all the things that are usually done in spring/summer can’t be done. Well, there’s much to do! As far as we’re concerned: tidying up and cleaning, preparing the frames for the new season, preparing a couple of new hives for the following year, we keep on selling our honey, and then…we take the occasion to experiment, like with our Mead! You can find more in our Instagram stories highlights, if you are curious! Projects are many and much enthusiasm as well. With a bit of patience and good organisation, step by step we can manage anything!

And you? How do you spent your winter days? Winter sleep of work in progress for plans? Let us know with a comment here below.

A hug,

the Gaeblini

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