Garden friends: where bees go in winter

Where bees go in winter

The first cold weather arrives and suddenly we realize that the garden is more silent. The hated mosquitoes have disappeared, the noisy bumblebees are no longer flying and the gentle bees are no longer seen grazing above the last autumn blooms.
But where did they all go? Dead, migrated or lethargic?
Not all species have the same approach to winter.
Mosquitoes for example do not resist intense cold and remain alive only at the egg or larva stage in protected environments.
The hornets (Vespa crabro) instead survive from year to year thanks to the tenacity of their new queens, that once fertilized they hide themselves safely in the attics or in the hollows of the trees.
But the most fascinating wintering of all is precisely that of our friend bees, who all manage to overcome even very harsh winters and helping each other wait for the new spring.
Bees (Apis mellifera) are social insects, which 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 the common bees.
At the gates of winter, these amazing hymenopterans manage to interpret seasonal changes in a way that man does not understand and a few days before the first disturbances arrive, the family closes in a glomere.
The glomere is a kind of formation in which all the bees huddle close together to protect the queen that remains in the center of the nest.

Garden friends: where bees go in winter: Honey as fuel

The heat inside the hive is maintained through a vibration of the pectoral muscles and the energy required for this operation is obtained from honey.
During the summer the honey is stored in the combs, thus constituting the necessary stocks to feed on during the winter.
While the queen rests in the hottest areas of the nest the other bees move in turn from an external position to an internal one to the glomere itself, this to avoid risking hypothermia 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 found out that the bees don't die, they go into a long sleep, but they simply gather and warm up with each other.
It is for this reason that in particularly mild winter days it can happen to see some bees fly even if the snow still persists, in fact it is not uncommon for some foragers to attempt exploratory flights in search of fresh pollen and nectar, which can be supplied by species to very early flowering such as the hazel, viburnum vat, goat willow, alder, calicanto etc.