Winter Wonders: How honey bees brave the cold through ingenious hive clusters

As winter officially sets in and temperatures drop, the majority of bees and wasps enter a hibernation state. However, honey bees stand out by remaining active throughout the cold season.

Despite the freezing temperatures and the absence of flowers and pollen, honey bees display an impressive ability to endure winter conditions. In climates where the thermometer falls below 10 degrees Celsius, these hardy insects return to their hives, forming a cluster to generate and retain warmth.

The prosperity of the hive relies on the bees’ proactive preparation for the cold season. Honey bees take measures to endure the prolonged, frigid winter by maintaining a substantial population within the cluster and ensuring an ample supply of honey.

The social structure of honey bees, comprising workers, drones, and queens, sees the male drones perish in winter, leaving only the female castes—the workers and the queen.

Within the winter cluster, an all-female assembly of bees tightly congregates, positioning the queen at the core, the warmest section. The workers engage in vigorous shaking and shivering to collectively sustain a viable temperature for survival.

A bee will not succumb until its body temperature drops to 5 degrees Celsius or lower. At this critical point, the bee loses the ability to move its shivering muscles, rendering it incapable of generating the necessary heat to stay warm.

As winter transitions to spring and the weather becomes milder with blooming flowers, bees resume their activity outside the hive. Their industrious buzzing continues through the summer and into the fall.