What Do Honeybees Do in Winter?

When temperatures drop and the days get shorter, many animals wait out winter by hibernating or migrating to warmer climates. But honey bees
do something a little different to stay cozy. They hug. Honeybees start preparing for winter in late
summer and fall. Female worker bees stockpile enough honey
to keep the hive fed through spring, while also raising their winter replacements. These winter bees have fatter abdomens compared to summer bees, as well as a longer lifespan. Summer bees typically live just four to six weeks, while the winter bees can live four to eight months. As the temperatures get colder and the hive
population shifts to winter bees, workers kick the male drones out of the hive, saving the remaining food for the new winter bees and—most importantly—the queen. Once the cold hits, winter bees
have one very important job: keep the queen warm and fed. They do this by forming a “winter cluster,” which is a very big and very warm group hug. Bees gather around the queen, fluttering and shivering to generate heat. With the whole colony in on this hug, the
queen can get quite toasty. While the outside of the cluster might be
50 degrees Fahrenheit, the center can reach a scorching 90 degrees. All that fluttering and shivering is work,
and work requires food. On warmer days, the hungry honeybee cluster
moves through the hive to new stores of honey. Depending on the conditions, a colony can consume more than
80 pounds of honey before spring, so beekeepers make sure to
leave some behind in the fall. Not all bees hug their way through the cold. Honey bees in warmer climates may not need
these clusters. And queen bumble bees are often the only bumble
bee who survives through the winter, hibernating alone in a safe, warm nesting spot. Right before spring comes around, the honey bee colony returns to producing summer worker bees. When temperatures rise, they’ll be ready to
collect the pollen and nectar they need for the next winter. For Scientific American, I’m Deboki Chakravarti.


  1. Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man. He was cast to the bowels of the Earth where he was pecked to death by birds.

  2. Still learning about the "birds and the bees" but if the males are kicked out in the cold with no food and with no one to hug, where do baby bees come from? Males need a little honey now and then…but a big honey would bee better.

  3. Thanks for the great video. i'm new to beekeeping with 1 hive. Even though they are not visibly active I've still got a lot to learning do during the down months to get ready for new activity. Tnx.

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