Saturday, November 13, 2010

BEES DON'T FREEZE, THEY STARVE!



(picture) The hive at night

Although I took 16 hrs of "Beekeeping in Northern Climates" course back in March I find that I've forgotten most things about honeybees. Like remembering the fact that they don't freeze but instead starve to death in the winter. Why the black cardboard box to warm them up on sunny days then? Well, because, the warmer they are the less honey they consume. Ooooooh, yeah... Oh yeah?? Ok, now I'm lost.

I had to go through it all again in my head, filling in the blanks, so please enlighten me on some of the finer points of beekeeping because I'm totally lost.

1. The colder bees get, the more energy they use to warm their hives.
2. Bees cluster in the hive and shiver to stay warm, heating the center of their cluster up to 80-90 degrees F and the outside of the cluster gets about 40-50 degrees F.
3. The bees rotate from inside to outside, sharing the warm spots, as to avoid freezing.
4. The bees are always surrounding their queen to protect her in the winter from the cold and they feed her throughout as well.

Here is where I believe I'm confused. Do bees eat honey more when it is cold or when it is warm?

4. I've heard that bees do not consume honey if it is too cold because they don't want to break cluster, therefore the colder it is the more likely they are to die.

and

I've also heard the opposite, that they need more honey the colder it is because they use up more energy warming their hive. The more shivering/warming they have to do the more eating they have to do.

If bees do consume more honey when it is warm, risking honey stores the warmer days we have, then why use the black box at all - since the black box will contribute to warming on sunny days. If we don't use the black box and they remain colder then they won't break cluster to eat. See why I'm confused?

5. Bees will die off if there isn't enough honey to get them through the winter.
6. In Minnesota that means a beehive needs at least 80 lbs of honey.
7. The honeybees start their cluster at the bottom of the hive and move up slowly as they consume the honey, ending their journey at the top hive body.
8. I need to check the hive on a warm sunny day (Jan, Feb?) to see if the cluster is moving nicely upwards (not sure what I'm suppose to do once I determine where they are in the hive).
9. Start feeding the bees sugar syrup and pollen sub. in March.

BTW/I had to clean snow away from the lower entrance of the hive today. It is only 33 degrees (warm for a Minnesota winter) but my bees are working diligently to keep their hive toasty. I peeked in the upper entrance to see what they are up to and I saw shivering little bodies doing lots of buzzing. I'm proud of them... doing what nature does best... SURVIVING!