B r e a k f a s t W i t h T h e B e e s

A sharing on the Birth, and Life

of a Honey Bee Colony at Grass Lake Sanctuary, grasslakesanctuary.org

Manchester, Michigan

Friday, October 14, 2011

September 15th: What do they do in the winter?

What do they do in the winter?
I dont know exactly....
but I look forward to our winter visits and conversations with the bees at that time!
In the mean time, this is what Ive read:
The bees are alive all winter.  Interestingly, the worker bees, who typically live 3-6 weeks in the summer, have increased life spans of 3-4 months through the winter.  They huddle together in a ball around the center combs and around the Queen to keep her warm.   They take turns rotating to the outside of the huddle where it is colder.  They feed on all the honey and pollen that they collected from the summer.  This is why it may be best to only harvest honey from the bees in the spring - when there is a surplus.  Receiving honey from bees in the spring ensures the bees a full season to replenish their stores for winter.
With the colder weather apparently the drones (boy bees) leave the hive.  Many texts say the worker bees kick them out because they are no longer needed and take too much care and resources to be able to over-winter them.  (The drones apparently do no foraging or cleaning, or caring.  Their sole purpose is to mate with Queen bees).   I noted in a previous post how the workers were dragging out unborn baby's (drone larvae ?) - a possible response to a cold snap - a trigger to "get rid of the drones".   I like to think however, that with the collective hive intelligence, the adult drones leave on their own - without having to be kicked out.   Being part of the collective organism I would imagine, or like to think, that they have the hive's best interest in mind?  In certain situations I've read that some drones may be able stay through the winter - perhaps when there are plenty of food stores.
I'm not sure if these girls have enough stores for winter, even without taking any honey from them. This is because of the small swarm size, and fairly late foraging start (after June 15th).   It leaves me a bit concerned (as a worried mother) but I will monitor them throughout the winter and trust I'll know if and when I need to feed them.  I will likely follow similar feeding practices which Ive read about through Gunther Hawk's biodynamic bee sanctuary in Virginia - Spikenard Farms.  The food will  basically  be a local honey dilution, maybe mixed with some supporting herbal infusions.
Here are some videos from around the week of September 15th

 Bee activity at 57 degrees!

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