Curious Questions…Do bees hibernate?

Honeybees

These critters have an interesting form of winter survival. They stop flying when the temperature drops below 50 degrees and crowd into the lower portion of the hive, forming  a cluster. The worker bees encircle the queen bee and flutter their wings, creating energy to keep the center around 80 degrees. The colder the weather, the tighter the cluster becomes. Observations have shown that hibernating honeybees consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey during the winter months, which helps the bees produce body heat. On warmer days, honeybees will venture out for short flights.

Mason Bee House

Mason Bee House

 

Mason Bees

The adult mason bee lives only for about 6 weeks, unlike honeybees. They are solitary creatures and each female makes her own nest. Inside the nest, eggs hatch and each larvae has its own cell and food supply in it’s own compartment. After the larvae feeds, it spins a cocoon and remains there the whole summer. In the fall, the larvae molts and transforms into adult form. They spend the winter as adults in the cocoon and then emerge in early spring to start another generation.

Bumble Bees

Although bumble bees are a closer relative to honey bees, they do not maintain colonies throughout the winter. The last of the summer colony will contain a number of queens. Each of these queens will mate, she will find a place to overwinter and will hibernate until spring alone. The queen depresses her rate of metabolism which allows her to hibernate while burning very little fuel. In the spring she will find a place to build a nest and begin to lay and tend to her eggs.

Resources:

1. http://www.bees-online.com/Winter.htm

2. http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/winter.htm

3. http://www.pollinatorparadise.com/Binderboards/Hornfaced_Bees.htm

4. http://www.loghomecare.com/carpenter_bees.html

5. http://www.aussiebee.com.au/abol-002.html

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Be Nice to the Bees | Buy Plants that Are Bee Friendly

Both Home Depot and Lowes are stepping up to help protect the bee population. Home Depot has required nurseries to label plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, and Lowe’s has made a commitment to phasing out sales of products that contain them.

What are neonicotinoids you ask?…Neonicotinoids are a new breed of insecticides that are chemically related to nicotine. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse.  They are more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than other higher organisms, which is why they are attractive to deter insects. They have become popular because they are water soluble, which allows them to be applied to soil and be taken up by plants.

 

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So what is the danger?  New research points to to the impact on bees and other beneficial insects. The exposure in a plants pollen passes on a low level contamination. The exposure level does not normally kill bees directly, but is found to effect some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar and locate , and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.

When shopping for plants, ask question. Identify resources in your area that provide organic and non-neonic product selections.

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