Updated: Nov 21, 2021
We are asked quite often if bees hibernate in the winter. The truth is that not only do the NOT hibernate but they work together as a hive to ensure survival.
In the photo below we described how the bees ball (cluster) in the winter to keep each other warm. They eat their stores of honey, allowing them to shiver.
Hives stay warm in 3 ways: Conductions Radiant Heat Convection
Conduction is heat transfer from touching the bee next to them. Because they are so tightly packed together on the outside of the cluster that their hair is literally interlaced, they keep each other warm.
Radiant Heat is the heat from nearby bees. On the inside of the cluster where the queen and the younger bees are, they stay warm from the bees nearby. The heat put off from other bees keeps them warm.
Finally, convection or the heat rising and cold air falling. As the winter progresses, the bees move further up in the hive. They start the winter in the bottom box and slowly work their way up. By spring, they are as far up in the hive as they can go. This allows the cold air to be below them and the warm air around them.
The two enemies to winter hive survival are starvation and moisture.