How do bees prepare for winter?

bees prepare for winter Hives on the farm at Chesterhaven Beach Farm during a small snow storm

Six ways that bees prepare for winter.

Bees have one main job in the winter — to take care of the queen bee. This means they must keep her safe and warm. Bees prepare for winter by performing a multitude of tasks that ensure the hive’s survival during the cold months.

Finding the Queen

Before winter female honeybees (worker bees) force male bees out of the nest because they eat too much.

To bee or not to bee.

Bees literally work themselves to death. In colder weather, worker bees live up to nine months, in warm weather, they live about six weeks.

People often ask us if bees hibernate in the winter. They do not. The worker bees join forces in the form of a cluster. As the season progresses, they work their way up the hive thru their food stores. The bees rely on honey as their energy source that is why it is so critical for beekeepers to leave honey post-harvest for the hive to thrive.

Infrared shot of the hives on one of hte coldest days of the year to show where the bees are.

The bees on the outside of the cluster wave their wings and flutter and shiver to keep the heat inside the hive. The colder the weather the tighter-knit the cluster. In the winter months the honeybees only leave the hive for cleansing flights (read: take potty breaks). On the image above, the yellow represents where the bees are in clusters in the hive. This shot was taken on the coldest day of winter.

Bees will consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey over the course of a single winter. This is why it’s so important that we leave them enough honey (at least 60 pounds per hive) to get thru the winter.

lone snow bee outside the hive in winter
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About the Author


Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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