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What bees do during the winter

Here's what bees do during the winter: one sleeps while the rest continue working throughout the chilly months!

Just one bee in each honey hive will hibernate this winter. The queen bee. The rest will huddle together keeping warm until spring.

Bees spend the cold winter months slowly and continuously flexing their wings. That creates vibrations to keep themselves warm, according to experts.

“They’re over-wintering, we like to call it, not necessarily hibernating,” said CU Boulder instructor Danielle Bilot. “Just trying to keep warm, like us.”

Bees have an internal temperature clock, Bilot told 9NEWS. Honey bees will not come back out until it gets to about 50 degrees. Native bees, who live in the ground or in wood, wait until the temperature gets to roughly 60 degrees. 

Beekeepers insulate the honey beehives before the winter to make sure the colonies survive, according to Colorado State University researchers. They wrap black tar paper around the hive between October and late November, when temperatures at night begin to fall below 50 degrees. They also make sure to leave between 80-100 pounds of honey.

“Bees don’t produce honey over the winter, they eat their reserves during the winter,” Bilot explained. “That’s why beekeepers are trying to keep more sustainable methods for honey harvesting. So they don’t take too much away from the colonies during the winter, so they have enough to survive.”

Bilot said native bees take their own precautions to brave the snow and ice.

“They dig to a certain depth to make sure they are away from all of those elements. They even put their females to the farthest back of the nest. So if there is some sort of parasitic issue that comes into play, they won’t eat their females,” Bilot added. “They divide each cell and provision it with enough food to last over the winter to grow.”

If you have your own garden, Bilot recommended leaving some of your leaves and twigs in the growing beds to give native bees more insulation.

“We want to make sure we’re giving all our bees a fighting chance,” she said.