Winter in the bee yard. We keep the ladies warm by using Wellington County Winter Wraps. Each wrap covers 1 single beehive. These wraps are made of 4 millimetres black corrugated plastic with 5% U.V. protection. The bees cluster together in a small ball with the Queen bee in the centre to keep warm. Over time the bees in the center move to the outside of the cluster, so their colder sisters can get to the middle and warm up. Bees use up more of their stores when it is cold. The food helps to keep the bees warm as well.
Bees need a minimum body temperature above 41°Fahrenheit / 5°Celsius inside the hive during the winter to stay alive. Below this temperature Honeybees are unable to shiver, and bees shiver to keep up their body temperature. On days with temperatures above 50° Fahrenheit / 10° Celsius you may see bees flying. Honeybees use the warm weather and shivering to get their body temperature to a minimum of 85°Fahrenheit / 30°Celsius so they can fly. They are unable to fly at any temperature blow 85°Fahrenheit / 30°Celsius.
Honeybees can hold their stool for several weeks while waiting out the cold. On days warm enough to fly, bees take flight and relieve themselves. This is called a Cleansing Flight. The nice weather also gives the bees a chance to clean up around the hive. They remove anything they consider waste like dead bees, wax bits, mouse droppings, or anything else that doesn’t belong inside of the hive.
During the cold winter, mice, voles and other opportunistic small mammals will nest inside of the hive. They destroy the corners of a few frames in the bottom and create a nest to ride out the winter. Once the honeybees become more active, they normally move to greener pastures. The bees then have to remove their waste and repair the beeswax in the frames.
Cleansing flights are a way for the bees to start their spring cleaning, by purging the hive of waste and a chance to defecate. Makes me grateful for the luxury of inside plumbing, garbage and recycling removal.