In the winter, bees don’t hibernate like other animals. Instead, they cluster together in their hives to keep out the cold and to ensure the queen bee survives until the spring when food is abundant. As they cluster to produce heat, they need food to sustain them till the next warm season.
Bees eat their own honey during the winter. If they don’t have enough honey, the beekeeper should supplement it with sugar syrup, candy boards, and other foods. Since they need a lot of energy to flutter their wings and keep the hive warm, a colony needs 30 to 90 pounds of honey for the winter.
What do bees do in the winter?
Most animals hibernate during the winter. However, bees form a winter cluster around the queen to provide her with food and warmth. Essentially, when temperatures drop to the 50s, they all return to the hive and cluster together. This clustering helps them survive extreme temperatures, unlike carpenter bees which live solitary lives.
The worker bees in the hive huddle around the queen, fluttering their wings. This generates heat, with most hives being as warm as 80°F on the inside and 46°F on the outside. The worker bees rotate around the hive to ensure each bee is kept warm as well.
This shows that you shouldn’t inspect the hive during the winter since opening it up disturbs the cluster of bees and lets in the cold. In the summer, however, the hives get warm, and opening them for repairs and other reasons isn’t an issue.
What do bees eat in the winter?
Every bee in the hive, from the queen down to the worker bees, will require food for sustenance during the cold winter. Bees eat honey in the winter to stay alive and have the energy to keep the beehive warm.
Bees need between 30 and 90 pounds of honey per hive for the winter. Since a single deep frame holds 8 pounds of honey on average, a colony would need 6 to 10 deep full frames of honey for the winter.
This is an estimate since it’s not easy to find exactly how much honey the bees in a hive will need for the whole winter. The amount of honey consumed by bees during winter depends on various aspects, including the following:
- Number of bees in the hive
- Climatic conditions
- Size of the hive
- The shape of the hive
Bees prefer their honey unless they have to raid another hive. While they eat honey in the real world, Minecraft (the videogame) bees eat honey blocks near their hives or nests. If they come to your house, you can easily get them away without necessarily killing them.
Do bees need to be fed in winter?
If each bee colony has the needed honey, you don’t need to feed them. However, if the bees have insufficient amounts of honey to last all winter, you need to supplement their diet.
Some of the reasons why bees may have insufficient honey for the winter include the following:
- A low number of bees during peak nectar flow season.
- Laying eggs late due to poor weather.
- A weak queen.
- Migration or swarming instead of producing honey.
- Bee deaths due to diseases or parasites.
- Honey badgers, yellow jackets, or other bees have stolen honey.
You can feed sugar water to bees in winter as a supplement to their diet. However, the best honey supplement for bees is sugar syrup. While it lacks the nutrients in honey, it can be mixed with essential oils for better nutrition and is safe for the bees.
When feeding bees in the winter, follow these tips:
- Don’t feed bees on honey that isn’t their own. Honey from other hives can have diseases that can kill off another colony.
- Feed bees with a sugar syrup made with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, winter patties, Honey B Healthy, candy boards, and other favorable options.
- Avoid feeding liquid sugar to bees when clustered, as they rarely eat liquids below 50°F.
- Use an internal feeder to keep the bees within the hive where it’s warm enough for them.
- Provide food for the bees right at the start of the cold weather.
- Don’t feed bees with sugar that has additives such as coloring or flavoring, as it can make them sick.
- Only feed candy boards to the bees above the cluster in the hive.
- Add protein to candy boards for survival in the winter.
- When feeding candy boards to the bees in winter, allow proper upper ventilation in the hive.
- Don’t allow the food to run out. Replenish it until the winter is over.
Bees form clusters at the bottom of the hive and then eat the honey all the way to the top, depending on the length of the winter. For this reason, you need to place the food at the top of the hive so that they find it once they’ve exhausted their honey.
Bees may die in the winter mainly due to viruses spread by varroa mites and for being too low in number. Each bee colony needs at least 40,000 bees to sustain itself in the cold weather.
How do you feed wild bees in the winter?
Wild bees rarely need feeding in the winter, especially if they have enough flowers in the warmer months. Feed wild bees sugar such as cane sugar, sugar syrups, and candy boards.
Unlike bees in hives, wild bees may still fly about on warmer winter days, such as those that get to 55°F or more. This way, they can still find food in their environment to sustain the colony.