How Do Honey Bees Survive in the Winter?

How do bees make it through the cold winter months?

Mead needs honey. So, mead needs bees. And while we don’t have any bees here at The Colony Meadery, it’s still important to know as much about those guys as we can.

With winter here and in full swing, and snow slowly sneaking in towards us, we thought we’d give a little insight on how how number one product producer, the honey bee, gets through winter. It’s a season where warmth, flowers, and pollen are the opposite of what is around us.

So how do they do it?

Bees use honey to get through the winter.

Bees use honey to get through the winter.

Insects all have a distinct methods to surviving the cold winter months. While some hibernate, such as wasps and butterflies, others such as the praying mantis will simply lay her eggs to hatch in the spring before her own life cycle ends in the first frost.

Honey bees, on the other hand, have a different approach altogether by using the source that they are most famous for: their honey. In order for this method to be effective, the process begins much earlier in order for enough of the insects food supply to last through the winter months.

As the temperature falls, the queen halts her production of eggs, and the worker bees cluster closer and closer together. This closeness creates enough friction and warmth to keep the hive at a consistently warmer temperature than what is outside of their hive.

In fact, the temperature of the center of the hive can reach as high as 90 plus degrees. The worker bees then take 'shifts' switching from the inner and outer cluster. This cycle continues as they delicately take turns using as little of their food supply as possible to make it last.

As long as their honey supply is enough, the bees will have a safe and warm home that will keep them cozy throughout even the coldest of temperatures throughout the winter.

So, next time you pop open a bottle of your favorite bottle of The Colony Meadery’s mead on a chilly winter night, make sure to raise a glass to the ever hardworking honey bee, and say “thanks ‘lil guy” when you see one in buzzing about this spring.