Where do the bees go in the winter?
Bees hibernate and some species die off leaving the queen to start a new colony. This is a pretty lonesome endeavour!
This is a question my kids have asked that I thought did need further exploration.
My answer was purely a guess! In order to help the bee population, it really is a good idea to learn more and understand what does happen the bees in winter.
Most of us presume they hibernate or die and to an extent this is true but it depends on the particular species of bee. We see these very industrious little workers all summer buzzing around the gardens and parks. They are collecting pollen and nectar and pollinating the fruit and veg that is vital to our diet. Do we stop to think – how do the bees survive winter?
Really – if we just stopped to think about the importance of the bee in feeding the world – we would all do something more in our own backyards to make their lives a little easier. Ten quick ideas that make a huge difference can be found here https://mrssowandsow.com/save the bees
How do bees survive the winter?
Most bumblebee and yellow jacket colonies do not survive the cold weather and are generally killed off in the first frosts. Here we have the queens left to start all over and get their nests ready for spring.
Honey bees though have developed a unique strategy and this is where you come in! The flowers and plants in your back yard or garden can make the difference in keeping a colony alive and healthy. The honey that is produced from your bee friendly flowers and plants is packed with carbohydrates and full of calories. This is vital for the worker bees as it provides the fuel they need for energy – this energy helps the bees to stay warm during the winter. The worker bees cluster together and will pump their wing muscles without flying to produce heat! Little bees pumping their muscles – now there is a thought! We can learn something here – hard work and team effort pays off!
Honey bees that exist in a temperate climate are working against time to gather their resources and stockpile food that they will need to survive. They have approximately 2 months to do this which is why it is vital we help make them that window of time as productive as possible.
What can we do to help the bees when the weather turns cold?
We can make sure we plant flowers, plants and shrubs that bloom and thrive in the winter. The honeybee whilst remaining most of the time in the hive will sometime emerge on a mild or sunny day. Solitary bees stay in the nest until they are ready to start mating but all need fuel if they do venture out. Have a look at the recommendations below to make sure our buzzy little friends do not starve for lack of nectar.
There are a variety of winter growers that are fantastic for the bees and ranges suitable whether you have a huge garden or a window box.
Have a visit to your local garden centre or check out suppliers online – they do provide a wealth of knowledge. You can buy your pollinators ready to go or have a go at planting from seed yourself. There is something very therapuetic watching a seed begin to grow. Stay clear of hybrid varieties as they do not produce the same amounts of pollen. I prefer to recommend suppliers that sell organic and heirloom seeds and Seeds Now are a great example of this – they also have a wealth of information on their website on all aspects of gardening. You can find them here https://mrssowandsow.com/buy seeds here
Plants to grow to help bees in the winter
- Clematis Cirrhosa
- snowdrops,winter aconites
- winter heathers
- winter honeysuckle
- Strawberry tree
- Oregon Grape
These are just some ideas to help you get started. You can also plant evergreens for winter food and let the grass grow a little longer in one area of your garden. There are lots of helpful tips to make your garden a bee haven all year round here https://mrssowandsow.com/save the bees
More bee friendly ideas
Add plants that bloom late such as goldenrod and different asters. Plants that bloom late are a great help for the bee on that home run when every little last bit of nectar helps the colony for the winter ahead.
Plant early bloomers to help replenish those stocks that are beginning to run out – willows, maples, gold heart, fern leaf peony, jacobs ladder, Kim Korean lilac are just a few ideas. The wonderful thing about early bloomers is seeing that little peek of colour emerging in the garden – after what usually seems a long winter, we can appreciate that too.
If you have no garden, you can still be a great asset to these vital little helpers, plant at your doorstep or windowsill – have a look at this fab little idea!
Remember to never use commercial pesticides – your pantry has everything you need already to stop weeds but save the bees!
Neem oil, essential oil, vinegar and more.
Bee friendly and beautifully fragrant lavender.