Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snow Day.... for Bees

Winter in the bee yard can look very lonely and quiet.

The hives sit unmoving and there's very little activity outside.

We have cold winters in Ontario, Canada, so beekeepers put covers called 'wraps' around their hives.

The wraps are like putting a blanket on the hive. It helps to keep the bees warmer by stopping the cold wind blowing into the hive.

The beekeeper will also put a piece of wood across the large entrance of the hive, leaving only a small hole for the bees to come and go.

Are you wondering about bees coming and going in winter? They do, just not very much. You see bees don't actually hibernate. Hibernating would mean sleeping a lot and not eating. The bees stay awake all winter and they snuggle together on their honeycombs in a tight cluster.

They shiver their wing muscles, which is like exercising and it makes their bodies warm. By snuggling they share their body heat. Just like how penguins form a cluster and cycle from the outside edge where it's colder to the inside where it's warmer, bees will take turns being warmer in the middle.

Can you guess what food they'll eat? Honey of course. All their hard work all summer long is for this moment, the cold days of winter. They can eat their honey and use it's energy to keep themselves warm.

But there's something else that happens when you eat..... you have to go to the bathroom! On days when it's not so cold the bees will actually fly out of the hive to poop. If they don't get too cold they'll make it back into the hive.

[See this photo - you can learn more about how this became Yellow Snow here].

Unfortunately, some bees will get too cold when they fly out and they'll fall to the snow. Then they can't warm up their muscles enough to fly. That's sad because they'll die.... unless I'm there to warm them up.

I'll tell you about that next time.


Unknown said...

So very true...on a warm-winter day I love to watch my bees stretch, clean themselves and take a break and drink water that is melting off the roof. Anyway, a bee landed on the wooden fence and within seconds this thin white/yellow stuff was coming out of this bees bottom. At first I thought my bee had a parasite like a pin worm because it was about 2 inches long, but then I saw another bee...Wow,my first time ever watching bees poop!

zacaj said...

Hi Barbara,

Do you allow others to use your photos or presentations for educational purposes? They are excellent, and I sometimes need to speak to children and adults as well.

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

hi Zacaj. Yes, you may use my photos for presentations. I also have a Powerpoint presentation on bees already made up that you can use. It's on my website under the Teachers link.