Bees need peace and quiet in January. Their queen is already laying eggs, but even in strong hives, there is very little brood. This is so that the bees can heat it sufficiently. What this small amount of brood is for, just a few larvae, is not known. However, it will certainly not help to increase the bee population, which during this period amounts to about 10 000 individuals.
Beekeeping in January and temperature monitoring
As a beekeeper, you should only regularly check the apiary to ensure that animal risks interfere, that strong winds have not blown the roofs off the hives, or that birds are not trying to reach the bees.
With Beezum sensors you can monitor your bee colonies even in winter.
What do bees do in winter?
Bees are busy keeping warm and living in the hive throughout January. They don’t fly for nectar, because in our climate no honey flowers bloom and during January the outside temperature rarely rises to 8°C. because a bee’s life depends largely on the outside temperature and sunlight, winter is a lazy period for them, during which they stay permanently in the hive and fly out when an extremely hot sunny day occurs. These flights are used for cleansing. Even on a warm day, it is risky for them to leave the hive. If they accidentally sit on cold snow or ice, they cool down very quickly, become brittle, and can no longer return to the hive. If you see lone bees flying out of the hive during January, this can be a very bad signal. Probably the bees leave the hive for the last time. They feel their end is near and they leave to die outside the hive. In spring, the beekeeper is surprised to find the hive empty. Full of supplies, but no bees. If you opened the hive in January, it seems that there are very few bees. The colder it is outside, the more they press against each other and gather in a cluster to warm each other. The outer surface of the cluster as they are pressed into a sphere is reduced, minimizing heat loss. Since honeybees do not leave the hive and must maintain their body temperature, they replenish their energy with the honey reserves they have accumulated during the spring and summer months.
The temperature inside the hive and outside. Even if the temperature outside is freezing, the bees keep warm in the hive. The sensor is located on top of the frame in the hive and shows the temperature there. A few centimeters further in, the bees sit in their winter cluster, keeping higher heat around the queen.
Winter may be the last stressor to end unhealthy bees and weak hives. It is typical that 15 to 28% of all beehives do not survive the winter. There are two factors that enable bees to endure cold winter temperatures:
- Enough stored honey for the bees to eat
- Sufficient number of bees to cluster together and keep the overwintering colony warm
If the colony is not strong enough to go into winter, or if it does not have enough food to last the winter, its chances of survival are greatly reduced. After varroasis, winter starvation is thought to be the most common cause of colony mortality.