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Where do bees go in winter?

Beehives in winterBeehives in winter There are around 25,000 species of bee—and different kinds cope with living through winter in different ways. In warmer climates, many bees are active throughout the year. But in cooler climates, where there are few flowers from which to feed in winter, bees must shelter from the cold weather and conserve their energy, ready for when the flowers start to bloom again in spring. Even though honeybees and bumblebees are closely related—both are types of social bee—their life cycles are quite different. The vast majority of bee species are not social: they are called solitary bees, and their hibernation patterns are different again.

Worker honeybees cluster around their queenWorker honeybees cluster around their queen

Honeybees start to prepare for the winter by gathering a winter reserve of honey for their hive in the autumn months. As the weather cools down, worker honeybees huddle together in a central area of the hive and form a “winter cluster” around the queen bee. To keep her safe and warm, the workers flutter their wings and shiver. They constantly rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster, so no individual gets too cold. This continual motion helps to keep the inside temperature of the hive warm. But the workers need the honey reserves they built up earlier to give them the energy they need to keep moving.

Some studies have found that hives of honeybees will consume up to 30 lb (14 kilos) of stored honey over the course of a single winter.

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