Extension Viewpoints: Where do bees go in winter?

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    By Robin Young and
    Lisa Mason
    SUN Columnist
    I have been asked a few times what happens to the bees in the winter. Bees and other insects have special adaptations, so their species survives from year to year. Here is a look at bee adaptations and life cycles in the winter time.

    Honey bees
    Worker bees foraged all summer and into fall, bringing in food reserves to last them the winter. When temperatures start to drop, honey bees huddle together to make a cluster and shiver their wings. Shivering provides warmth for the hive. Their main goal is to keep the queen warm so the colony can survive. The core temperature in the hive can be as high as approximately 91 degrees Fahrenheit.
    A healthy hive with adequate food storage is more likely to survive, which reinforces the importance of best beekeeping practices by the beekeeper all year.

    Solitary bees
    Solitary bees live a one-year life cycle. During the life cycle, a female bee builds a nest underground or in a cavity. She will collect pollen and nectar to bring back to the nest. All the collected pollen and nectar is made into a ball called “bee bread,” which will be all the food needed for one growing bee.
    The female lays an egg on the bee bread and seals up the nest. After the egg hatches, the larva will go through full metamorphosis from a larva, to a pupa and on to an adult before emerging from the nest the following season. The lives ended for the female and male solitary bees we saw flying around this summer, but their brood is warm for the winter underground or in a cavity and will emerge next summer.

    Bumble bees
    Bumble bees live underground or in large cavities and have a one-year life cycle, like a solitary bee. During the summer, new queens and male bees hatched. They left their colonies to mate. As temperatures dropped, the male bees and worker bees from the current season’s colony died. The new, mated queens found a place to rest and hibernate over the winter, usually underground.
    When spring arrives, she will emerge, begin to forage, build a new nest and lay eggs. The eggs will mostly be female worker bees at the beginning of the season. The queen will continue to lay eggs throughout the season. In late summer, new queens and male bumble bees will hatch and leave the colony and the cycle repeats itself. Queen bumble bees are capable of living alone, unlike honey bee queens.
    For more information on bee life cycles, you can read the “Native Bee Watch Citizen Science Field Guide.”

    Upcoming events
    January/February: Support your local 4-H Program by purchasing soup from a 4-H member.
    Feb. 11: The 36th annual Beef Symposium will be held at the Archuleta County Extension office. The cost is $25 per person and includes lunch. Please call the Extension office at 264-5931 for more information and to register.
    Feb. 12: The Agricultural Financial Management Strategies workshop, hosted by the CSU Agriculture and Business Management Team, will cover topics such as risk management, business planning, enterprise budgeting, record keeping and more. Please go to www.2020fms.eventbrite.com to register or come into the office to pay. The cost is $15.

    CPR and first aid classes
    CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
    We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.