Staying warm in winter
How do the bees stay warm in this weather? Honey bees keep their hives warm even though they are cold blooded.
Up until only a few years ago, it was thought by many scientists that Honey bee hives were kept warm by pupae in the brood and that the bees would often congregate there to warm themselves up from the pupae. Recently, this was found not to be the case when a new Honey bee job was discovered, that of “heater bees.” Bees of almost all ages can perform this function by either vibrating their abdomens or they can also decouple their wings from their muscles, allowing them to vigorously use these muscles without actually moving their wings. This can heat their bodies up to about 111° Fahrenheit (44° C), which is about 16° F (9° C) hotter than their normal body temperature
During winter, the bees all clump together towards the middle of the hive, surrounding the queen. At this time, they allow the temperature of the hive to drop to around 81° F (27° C) on the inside of the cluster to conserve energy. Bees on the outer parts of the cluster, which will usually be around 48° F (9° C), then occasionally rotate with the bees on the more crowded inner parts, so that all the bees can keep warm enough to survive. Once the queen starts laying again, the temperature of the inner part of the hive will be raised back up to about 93° F (34° C).
In order to support the heater bees at their job, other bees are given the job of occasionally bringing food to them as the heater bee’s energy starts to run low from their constant, vigorous use of their wing muscles or “vibrating” to generate heat.
Learn about Honey Bees
The history of the honey bee in North America.