Bees in winter

I’m sure I read somewhere that bees consume less resources over winter if the days and nights are colder rather than milder. Does anyone have any figures for the temperatures at which bees become less mobile and cluster more? Are we talking about daytime/nightime temps below 10 degrees, 5 degrees or lower?

I just want to have a sense of how they are doing if the winter turns out to be colder or milder, and what this might mean for springtime.

Graham, Reading Berks.

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4 Responses to Bees in winter

  1. simplebees says:

    Bees cluster once the air temperature in the hive drops below about 10ºC and are fully clustered by around 8ºC. The temperature of the air in the hive away from the cluster will eventually equate with the air temperature outside the hive, albeit with a time lag. The more tightly clustered the bees the less stores will be used. Cold, dry weather is thus ideal for wintering – even sub zero temperatures do not harm the winter cluster provided it is dry and in contact with food in the hive. What kills bees in the winter is damp or starvation, the latter occurring either when food runs out or if the cluster is not in contact with combs that contain food. The bees will not break cluster to search for food if the weather is cold. By contrast, warm weather in winter – which often means wet weather – encourages activity and more food is consumed in these conditions. Again 8-10ºC is the break point.

    Once the days begin to lengthen in January, small amounts of brood rearing will start right at the centre of the cluster and this will increase in February. As the end of February turns to March, stores consumption will increase markedly; this is the time to start checking the weight of hives regularly to watch for possible food shortages.

    Gareth, West Oxfordshire

  2. Many thanks for this Gareth.
    Graham, Reading Berks

  3. salp111 says:

    Are anybody elses bees flying still? I have seen the larger of the colonies here flying even in rain. Does that mean they are so low on stores that they are searching even in inclement weather or are they just tough old boots that are taking advantage of not so cold weather (guess it’s not so different from the summer!!) to forage? And where does that leave the feeding thing?

  4. itsonlyausername says:

    Mine are still flying. Never stop except when it gets really cold and wild.

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