Thursday, September 1, 2011

Honey Bees: Winter Preparation

A honey bee pollinating
     With summer coming to an end, in most of the country we are starting to prepare for winter. But we are not the only ones; honey bees are also preparing for winter. In some parts of the United States, the fall honey flow is starting. A honey flow is when many plants are blooming, so there is a lot of nectar for honey bees to gather and use to make honey. There can be several honey flows each year. In Hawaii honey bees make honey all year! In the northern parts of the U.S. flowers may only be blooming from May to September!

     The honey flows are important for beekeepers because honey bees are gathering nectar after we harvest much of the honey in early fall. But everyone benefits from the honeybees’ fall foraging, as they gather pollen and pollinate many of our foods, like blackberries, raspberries, and pumpkins!

Bee hives in Washington State.

     But the honey flow is the most important to honey bees. Over the winter they eat the honey they made during the honey flows. During the winter, the honey bees cluster, the group together and form a ball, which is how they stay warm. To keep their cluster’s temperature warm, they vibrate their wings. Of course, the honey bees need energy to do this so they eat honey! In some parts of the United States, like Alaska and Maine, honey bees will spend several months clustered, but in states like Georgia and Florida, the honey bees might only form a cluster in the coldest times.