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Where do bees go in winter
The first colds arrive and suddenly we realize that the garden is quieter. The hated mosquitoes are gone, the noisy hornets no longer fly and you can no longer see the kind bees grazing over the last autumn blooms.
But where has everyone gone? Dead, migrated or hibernating?
The way to face the winter is not the same for all species.
Mosquitoes, for example, do not resist intense cold and remain alive only in the egg or larva stage in protected environments.
Hornets (Vespa crabro), on the other hand, survive from year to year thanks to the tenacity of their new queens, who, once fertilized, hide safely in attics or in tree cavities.
But the most fascinating wintering of all is that of our friends bees, who all together manage to overcome even very harsh winters and help each other wait for the new spring.
Bees (Apis mellifera) are social insects, who have understood that union is the strength of a species, a concept that man tends to underestimate too often in favor of individualism.
When autumn arrives, the queen lays a last special brood, of very long-lived bees, suitable to live 5-6 months against the 30-40 days of common bees.
At the gates of winter, these surprising hymenoptera are able to interpret seasonal changes in a way that man does not understand and a few days before the arrival of the first disturbances, the family closes in a glomere.
The glomere is a kind of formation in which all the bees huddle close to each other to protect the queen who remains in the center of the nest.
Friends of the garden: where bees go in winter: Honey as fuel
The heat inside the hive is maintained by a vibration of the pectoral muscles and the energy needed for this operation is obtained from honey.
During the summer the honey is stored in the honeycombs, thus constituting the necessary stocks to feed during the winter.
While the queen rests in the warmer areas of the nest, the other bees in turn move from an external position to one inside the glomere itself, in order not to risk hypothermia by stopping too much in a colder area.
We consider that for the survival of the whole family even a single degree of temperature can make the difference; for this reason the beekeeper should not interfere with winter visits, with consequent opening of the box and lowering of temperatures.
So we have found that bees do not die or go into a long sleep, but simply congregate and warm up with each other.
It is for this reason that in particularly mild winter days it may happen to see some bees flying even if the snow still persists, it is not uncommon for some foragers to attempt exploratory flights in search of pollen and fresh nectar, which can be supplied by species to very early flowering such as hazel, viburnum viburnum, goat willow, alder, calicanthus etc.