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What do Honey Bees Do In The Cold Winter ?

Here in the Northeast of the United States it gets pretty cold in the winter. Honey Bees stop flying when the temperature drops down into the 50s (F). They stay inside their hive in what is called a winter cluster which means they get into a big huddle. There is no point to flying outside of the hive as there are no flowers in bloom, hence no pollen or nectar is available. The colder the temperature the more compact the cluster becomes.

Hives In The Snow

The object of this clustering is to keep themselves warm, so warm that the temperature in the center of this cluster, where the Queen Bee stays, is kept at about 80 (F). The outer edge of the cluster is about 46 - 48 (F).

The worker bees create heat by shivering and they also move back and forth between the inner part of the cluster and the outer part . In this way no bee will freeze.

On nice sunny winter days you can see honey bees flying a short distance out of the hive and then quickly returning. Sometimes if they go too far out or stay out too long they can get chilled and will not be able to fly back into the hive. It is too bad the bees have to leave the hive at all but they kind of have to, the object of these short flights is to eliminate body waste.

Check the illustration below. [ From The Honey Bee E-Book ]

Bee Hive in its winter state.

© 1995-2014 Albert W. Needham