What happens to honey bees in the winter?
When the temperature starts to get cold honeybees will stop flying. Worker Bees will stay in the hive and cluster around the queen bee in the central area of the hive. The cluster will shiver to keep the centre around 36 degrees centigrade. Worker bees rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster ensuring no bees get cold. The colder the temperature the more compact the cluster.
Hibernating bees will consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey during the winter helping produce body heat. The cluster will move very slowly around the hive to find this store, ensuring that the queen is always in the centre of the cluster. Oxidation of the honey produces heat energy and this is circulated throughout the hive by worker bees fanning their wings. When the weather gets warmer bees will leave the hive for short periods. The main purpose is to eliminate body waste. The bees don’t go very far and the flights don’t last very long. If their bodies get too cold they will not be allowed back in the hive.
What do bees do for our traditional Christmas?
Most of the foodstuffs we eat at Christmas rely on pollinating insects – even turkeys depend on eating grain which is pollinated by bees. All our vegetables rely on pollination, many involving bee species – root vegetables need pollination of the flowers to provide the seed. Even Brazil Nuts are pollinated by colourful Orchid Bees. Only Euglossini and larger Carpenter bees of the Xylocopa species can access the flowers of Brazil nut trees as a robust body is needed to force entry into the tightly lipped flowers. And in California the Almond harvest each year needs billions of honey bees to pollinate vast numbers of Almond blooms.
Traditionally candles bring warmth and festivity to the home at Christmas. It’s not just the wax used to make candles which comes from bees, Christmas candles are often scented with festive spices such as Vanilla, Frankincense and Myrrh. Vanilla comes from the pod of a tropical climbing orchid and is pollinated by stingless Meliponini bees whilst Frankincense and Myrrh are both derived from the resin of exotic trees native to the horn of Africa. These trees are insect pollinated and visited by bees.
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