Internal Warmth of a Colony

Internal Warmth of a Colony

We just had an unusual snowfall here in Northeast Georgia.  Just a few days prior, the temperatures were in the sixties! This kind of up and down weather makes for some tough days for a colony of honey bees. However, honey bees have survived for thousands of years and they will continue on as they were designed to by their Creator.  

In the morning after the snowfall, I excitedly went outside all bundled up to take several photos of one of our apiaries located right near our house. I found something amazing and I just had to share a blog about it!

When walking up to the apiary, each of the telescopic covers of the three hives where covered with snow. Of course, there is nothing amazing about that, especially for y’all that live in the snow states where it is a common site each winter.

What I saw when I viewed each cover of each of the hives was this:

  • Hive #1:  A couple inches of snow was on the cover with a slight indentation in the snow in the middle of the cover (see photo).
  •  Hive #2:  A couple inches of snow was on the cover with an indentation in the snow the size of a softball in the middle of the cover (see photo).
  •  Hive #3:  A couple inches of snow was on the cover with an indentation in the snow the size of a basketball in the middle of the cover (see photo).

 As many of us know, a colony of honey bees generates heat when needed by using their flight muscles to keep the colony warm. They cluster together tightly with the queen right in the middle. They cannot keep the whole hive warm, just the cluster. Bees will rotate in the cluster so that they all stay warm.

Since air rises, the heat generated by the bees showed up on the outside of the hive covers. Seeing the snow on the hive covers gave me an idea of how each hive is currently populated. I am eagerly looking forward to a warmer day to check into the hive with the slight indentation (#1) comparing it to the hive (#3) that had a larger indentation in the snow of the cover.

On a side note, I went back to the hives the next day and found each of the colonies had “dragged” a few of their dead hive mates to the entrance or just outside on the “porch”. The temperature was still too cold for them to carry the dead away from the hive as honey bees do, but it was encouraging to see that work was being done in the hive. I will let you know what results I find. To be continued…

100_1008                                                                                                      Hive #1

100_1009                                                                                                       Hive #2

100_1007                                                                                                       Hive #3

Let us know how your bees are doing in your neck of the woods!

~Julie

*Diagram from davesgarden.com