Barwell bees: cold winter weather just what the doctor ordered!

Barwell’s bees went into hibernation – after fluctuations in winter temperatures proved a challenge.

Mark Gale from BeesMAX, the not-for-profit company looking after the hives at the business park, said: “The bees are doing well and in hibernation at the moment. The cold weather was just what they needed.”

However, the season’s extreme swings in temperature, from below freezing to 10 degrees above, means “their body clocks get confused and they wake up too early and they start to age prematurely,” Mark said.

He added: “As long as there were enough young bees hatched late in the autumn then the overall colony numbers will remain high enough to keep the minimum temperature in the core of the nest at a minimum of six degrees centigrade 24/7. If the aging and die-off rate is too high from October to March then there just will not be enough bodies to collectively survive. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game.

“The other issue is availability of liquid food. They may have 40lbs of honey overall within the beehive but they have to be clustering directly on liquid honey when the hibernation phase hits as the core needs immediate food.

“If they haven’t migrated to a different place in the beehive where the core of the colony can eat as the rest sleeps (the bees in the core are awake making heat even though 80% of the colony sleeps) then the overall temperature of the colony drops and they die within 24 hours. When the outside temperature rises to about zero the whole colony can move slowly over a number of days across the combs to a new area where honey is available to eat when it’s needed.”

The bees, who were rescued from Epsom after their tree had to be felled, have their own YouTube channel – BeesMAXFightBack. A new video is due for publication soon.

For more information on BeesMax’s work to reverse the decline of the UK bee population, click here.