Beekeeping Farming

Did They Die?

I received the following text:

Saw that it is cold out there. I know you said you had a worry about the bees and the cold, did they die?

The question came from one of my followers on TikTok.

DID MY BEES DIE?

The weather in Texas is a bit of an odd duck. You can have freezing temperatures one day and then have ninety-degree weather the next. I’ve seen days where it snowed in the morning, was hot and sunny by lunchtime and then pouring rain by the evening. While we may not like the weather, bees and other creatures are better adapted to it and can roll with what Mother Nature dishes out.

This morning I woke up just before 0400 hrs, and it was bitterly cold outside—our overnight temperature sunk to 20° F (-6° C). As soon as the sun started heating up the sky, I decided to check on hives, trees, and other parts of the farm. At the hives, I look at the ground outside the hive, and there are dead bees everywhere. I look in the window and see no sign of my bees. Did my bees die?

More than likely, even though I see dead bees outside the hive and don’t see any through the small window, they are doing just fine. When the cold weather arrives, the bees go into hibernation. During the warm days of winter, the bees decided to clean out the bees that naturally died of old age.

When it’s cold, the bees will cluster together and vibrate their flight muscles (they do not move their wings when doing this) to raise their body temperatures. When you have a hive with thousands of bees doing this, they generate a significant amount of warmth and keep the cluster centre at about 93° F. The bees in the middle of the cluster create the heat, while the bees outside the cluster create a layer of insulation. The bees eventually switch places, and the ones outside move to the inside and generate heat. Some of the bees will also use the empty cells to sleep, and they will go into them headfirst to stay warm.

During normal winter warming spells, our bees will begin to move around in the hive, getting close to the unused honey they have stored in the brood box. This is not an easy thing for the bees. The cluster of bees must get around the comb to the cold parts of the hive, then re-cluster and start generating heat again before the temperature drops and their ability to move is affected. When we have extreme cold, the hive might be unable to move to the honey stores. If they run out of honey, they freeze to death. Most of the bees who do not make it to the honey supply within the hive died while trying to get there.

As the day went on and I checked hives, I still didn’t see a single bee.

FLIR will also help you ‘see’ your bees in the winter.

One of the reasons for not seeing them through the little windows we have is because they are in between the frames, in the centre of the hives, clustered together. My bees are there, and they may be clustered near the top of the brood box. They could also be in the centre, between frames. I have faith that they are going to be alright. Still, I just had to know.

As I walked out of the bee yard, I put a stethoscope up against a few brood boxes and knocked. I was met with their humming. They are there, doing just what I’m doing as I write this, trying to stay warm and well-fed.


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