The Bee Solution to Winter

The New York Times - Environment   By C. Claiborne Ray   January 26, 2015

Q. Do bees hibernate, especially where temperatures are below freezing for extended periods? Why don’t they just freeze?

A. Many bees hibernate, though some, including honeybees, do not, said Scott McArt, a research scientist in the department of entomology at the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Most bee species in northern climates overwinter in dormant stages,” Dr. McArt said. “For example, queen bumblebees will mate in the fall, then crawl into a crevice and overwinter alone, protected from the elements.”

The queens emerge in spring and found new colonies, which are productive through the summer, Dr. McArt said. Then, in the fall, new queens are produced by the colony to find a mate and continue the cycle.

“Honeybees are different,” Dr. McArt said. “The major reason they produce so much honey is so the entire colony can survive through the winter by feeding on it.”

The colony forms itself into a tightly packed ball, he said, “shivering” to produce heat and using the honey for fuel.

“The bees on the outside of the cluster act as insulators,” he said, “while the innermost bees generate the heat. They continually rotate their position, alternating roles as heat producer and recipient.”

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