Somehow I missed sending you all holiday cards from the Beeyonce and the Bee-Girls with their life updates. I apologize. 2011 was a busy year for all 40,000 members of the remaining hive. And for their beekeeper. Really. If you can manage the time to read all the way into this email you’ll get a full update, full of interesting bee-grade facts and the usual slew of over-the-top puns.
— Now for winter bee news! —
BEES SHIVER TO STAY ALIVE
Winter is a time of semi-hibernation for honey bees. The whole colony huddles around the queen, who will generally stay deep in the middle of the hive. They try to stay as warm as possible, so they stay organized. Foremost priority is protecting the queen so that come springtime, she can replenish the colony. The shape of the cluster around the queen changes, though, so that the outside bees don’t always have to shoulder the worst cold. Our remaining hive, up on the SIS roof, had some honey stores and a sugar candy that we fed them, plus their hive has good light exposure and some wind protection. So we think they will not starve over the winter. They may freeze, which is not uncommon in this part of the world, but much depends on the weather. Some studies have shown that bees can reach a point of total stiffness, akin to a hibernation, and then be revived when the weather warms they will start to semi-hibernate again. When the temperature gets above 60 degrees, the bees may tend to start brooding. So far the weather has been good to us, but with extended periods of cold it is common for the colony to not be able to handle it. Some beekeepers will put their bees into a bee-cellar, and others will dig trenches for their bee colonies. Others will wrap their bees in a layer of black felt, or will find other ways of insulating their boxes. In any case, keep your fingers crossed for more warm weather, which is working in the bees’ favor!
There are other pollinators that I noticed just yesterday flying about, in spite of the chilly air – yesterday I spotted an unusual type of fly species – but generally honeybees are staying in if the weather is 57 degrees F or lower; they use their flight muscles to keep warm, instead of for flying. On warmer, sunny days in the winter, bees may take quick “cleansing flights” – this helps them stay free of diseases like dysentery which are more common during the winter months. Bumble bees, however, are different: their queens do go into hibernation over the winter months. Ants, too, as well as some varieties of mosquitoes, will also hibernate, by the way.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: DC honeybees still can accept your orders, if you’re interested in starting a bee colony at your home/roof/garden (or giving one to someone as a gift). Email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Stay tuned for more buzz from me once I receive your feedback on the peer-based beekeeping. And thanks for reading all the way through this email. I hope you found it full of sweet information.