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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    barry co., Michigan
    Posts
    309

    Default Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    OK this may seem like a rediculously basic question but I cant find an answer.

    Do bees in a cluster ever totally shut down without being starved/dead?

    The situation. I have two five frame splits made in late summer. They both have about tennisball sized clusters going into winter and plenty of syrup/honey

    They are both stored in my insulated garage. stays about 35-50 deg in there.

    Now when it first got really cold here the carniolan split was devoid of movement for almost two weeks and the other split (italian) did the same thing for about a week. I figured they were all dead. When I looked at them they were all ordered in a cluster pattern. I didn't see any mites or brood. I put them back in the hive. Then we had two days in the early winter where it got in the 60s. I moved the seemingly dead splits outside in the morning and then about 1 pm they both had bees flying out the entrance doing their business! The very same bees I thought were dead! I opened the hives and both queens were moving around looking normal!

    About a day later the temp crashed again and the bees formed another tight cluster and they have that same dead look again like before. Zero movement for over a month now. I can see both queens markers through the screen bottom board and they have not moved at all. So now do they sound dead? or are they magically going to wake up again when it warms up?

    I have no idea

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Pinellass County, Florida
    Posts
    1,105

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    Tap Tap you'll hear them Buzz NO they never Hibernate they Cluster its their way of heat. If you see the Queen still for a long time they may be Dead
    but the Tap tap will tell you.


    Good Luck
    Tommyt

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    barry co., Michigan
    Posts
    309

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    no they definitely dont buzz or move. I understand what your saying but last time they did this they resumed their normal activity on a warm day but they shut down hard when it cold.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    barry co., Michigan
    Posts
    309

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    I've got two other full size hives and they exhibit normal clustering behavior

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Bergen, Norway
    Posts
    248

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    My 2c would be that the clusters are so small that they cannot keep the temperature up when it gets too cold. Hence they get really slow and sluggish(as if you put single bees in the fridge) at the outside, with only a tiny warm core.

    I would put them in the garage and leave them completely alone. If you could drape the hives with some blankets/styrofoam or other insulating material, I think that might help them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    barry co., Michigan
    Posts
    309

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    this is kinda what I was thinking. I have been keeping them in the garage where it stays about 35-40 deg on a cold day.
    They look exactly like a bee in the fridge

    I am going to do as you suggested it will be interesting to see if they survive!
    Hopefully in spring they will be ok!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Bergen, Norway
    Posts
    248

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    Make sure that the insulation does not hinder airflow.

    It may also help to put a small heating element under them (like a lightbulb in a ceramic flowerpot.) But then you also run the risk of them going out of the hive when it's too cold outside.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Woodlawn, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    327

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    How cold is it when you are doing these inspections? I try not to pop the top on mine when it is below 50 degrees. But then again, my bees are "southern" and might be more sensitive than yours.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    barry co., Michigan
    Posts
    309

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    well the garage temp is usually around 45 deg but i dont need to disturb them at all to inspect them
    I can see the cluster by looking up through the screened bottom board using a flash light. (they are on one of the higher up garage shelves)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
    Posts
    3,599

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    When bees get below a certain temp, 40 I think, they do shut down. It takes an outside heat source to warm them back up again to get going. The temps warming during the warmer days are an outside heat source that warms them up enough to break cluster. Storing bees at 45F will cause them to store clustered. They eat much less, they'll use the honey as food and convert it to heat to keep the cluster at 50F. Read the post #7 in this link about bees staying out over night and returning in the morning after the sun warms the air and ground enough...

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ht=diesel+fire
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Quapaw OK USA
    Posts
    262

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    I use the bees to tell me if it is to cold to open them. If the bees are not flying I don't opem them but if they are flying I open the top and check for their food

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,827

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    The intent of the bees is to keep the cluster warm enough that they are active all winter, though not outside the hive. If they get cold enough that they are not moving this is not planned nor is it good, but it does happen. If a bee's body temperature gets below 50 F or so they get lethargic and they get more lethargic as it goes down from there. Sometimes a borderline hive will reach that point and come back when it warms up, but usually it's a downward spiral to death once they freeze. Still I have seen hives that appeared dead but came back.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    berkley county, WV
    Posts
    429

    Default Re: Do bees "hibernate" over winter?

    We had a few days this weekend with temps in the mid 40's. I had bees flying from a couple questionable hives, and one with no activity. I thought that one had finaly given up and opened the top (without gear) to see if there were stores to salvage to help a light colony I have. I was wrong, and they proved it, they were just playing possum with me to bait me into range. Don't bet against them, but don't bet on them either
    welcome to your new addiction!!

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