Q: What do honeybees do in the winter? Do they hibernate?
A: Although honeybees are much less active in winter, they do not hibernate. All season long, busy bees make honey from nectar and pollen collected from flowers. Their hard work pays off in winter, when food-producing blossoms are nowhere to be found. Bees make much more honey than they need to survive the winter, and it is this excess honey that beekeepers harvest.
If we were to peek inside a bee hive in winter, we’d find a small, all-female team clustering together for warmth. The size of the cluster depends on the air temperature and windchill: during this winter’s “polar vortex,” the cluster would look like a baseball. In slightly warmer winter temperatures, it’d look more like a soccer ball. The queen remains in the center of the cluster, laying a small number of eggs as she and her daughters survive off their honey stores. On temperate winter days, they’ll leave the hive to relieve themselves. Bees like a clean hive, and wait until the temperature rises to take their “cleansing flights.” So, while honeybees are far less active than they are during every other part of the year, they do not, technically, hibernate.