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Nature Notebook – Honeybees in Winter

Most species of bees and wasps spend winter in a state of hibernation. In some species, all but the queen die when the temperature drops. Honeybees, however, spend their winter awake and rely on food storages of honey to keep them going. When the temperature outside the hive drops below 50 degrees, the bees hunker down for a long winter.

Their store of honey in the hive is the difference between life and death for these buzzing insects. If the honey supply runs short, it will mean death for some, if not all.

To keep warm in the hive, the honeybees will cluster around the queen and shiver to create heat. They shiver by vibrating their flight muscles, but keeping their wings still. The bees on the inside of the cluster will feed on the stored honey while the outer layer insulates them.

When the temperature starts to rise within the group, the outer layer will separate a bit to allow airflow through and will then switch with the bees on the inside of the cluster. Temperatures can get up to about 93 degrees!