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What happens to the bees during the winter?

Honeybees survive the winter as a colony, over the Autumn the number of bees in the hive reduces to about 20,000, and they will work together to keep the Queen warm until the spring.


The bees rarely leave the hive in the winter only flying on warmer days. They form what is known as a cluster where the bees huddle together (like penguins but in a ball) around the queen, using muscles in their thorax to generate heat.


Summer bees live for about 6 weeks but winter bees are so good at preserving energy many will survive from the Autumn through to Spring.


The bees have spent the summer building up their stores of honey which they now rely on through the cold period when there is very little in the way of forage around. A typical colony will use 20kg of honey in winter months.


As a beekeeper I will try and minimise by impact on the colony so won't open them up more than a couple times now before April. If the bees get low on reserves I will give them fondant (sugar) to eat.

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