- Published: 21 May 2009
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Cindy Lipsitz, Age 10, of Richmond, Va., for his question.
Do bees hibernate?
The busy bees have their busiest season in the summer. Then the gardens and waysides are decked with dainty blossoms and bees depend upon blossoms for their daily needs. Much of the summer work is preparation for the coming winter. For the busy insects plan to keep the hive going through the cold, flowerless months ahead.
In late fall the flowers dwindle and finally disappear. There are no honeybees shopping around for pollen and nectar, for these groceries are nowhere to be had. Besides, the winter weather is too cold for these busy insects. However, the honeybees do not perish with the first frost, as marry winged insects do. And they do not fall into the deep sleep of hibernation.
The bees have made their preparations to survive through the winter. They are inside the hive, doing what has to be done to feed and shelter themselves until spring again coaxes the flowers to bloom. Through the summer months, pollen and sweet nectar were abundant and there was plenty of food to support maybe 50,000 bees. Now the food supplies are limited.
The busy workers toiled hard to stuff the honeycombs with stores of food to last through the winter. But there is not enough to support the teeming hive and food must be rationed. What's more, the number of hungry bees must be reduced. The first members to go are the drones.
All summer these elegant gentle bees have been pampered by the worker bees. Their furry coats were combed and stroked and they were fed with dainty morsels of their favorite food. Now the worker bees turn on the drones. They refuse to give them food. If the lazy fellows fail to take the hint and leave the hive, the workers grab them and pitch them out into the cold.
Numbers must be reduced still more and there is no room for new members in the hive. The eggs and larvae are stung in their waiting cells to prevent them from hatching. The numbers dwindle from 50,000 to perhaps 10,000. The surviving bees ball together to hold. In the heat from their small bodies. From time to time the bees on The outside may change places with those in the middle of the ball. But many of them will perish from cold before the first warm breath of spring.
During winter, a colony of honeybees lives like a family in a bomb shelter. There are few trips outdoors. The supply of food is rationed to last until spring. Beebread is useless, for it is baby food and the workers eat only honey. The hive may be short even of royal jelly, the queen's special food. But no eggs are laid and the big queen bee has time to rest and stroll around. When hungry, she sips a little honey from a cell.