As we are well into winter have you ever wondered, what is happening to the Honeybee?
Well, it depends...
A drone (the male bee) does nothing to help in the hive other than to mate with a virgin queen - he has no pollen baskets and no sting. He spends the summer flying in and out of the hive freely, congregating at special sites and attempting to mate with a virgin Queen. However, over winter no more queen bees will be produced and thus, he is no longer required. The worker bees will gradually build up aggression and guard bees will prevent the drones from returning. If the drones try and force their way in, they are grabbed and thrown out of the hive. More will be born when foraging begins in the spring.
The worker bee (the female bee), on the other hand, gets a slightly better deal over winter. A worker bee born in spring or early summer will probably not survive over 6 weeks, however a worker bee born in autumn will probably live to see next spring. In summer, a worker bee works from within seconds of her birth, where she immediately starts cleaning her cell. Throughout her short life, she will nurse the young, guard the hive entrance, tend to the queen, build cells and forage, until her wings are so frayed and body so exhausted from hauling nectar and pollen to the hive that she walks away to die. However in autumn, all she needs to do is make sure there are guard workers at the entrance (to prevent hopeful drones and foraging wasps), and then settles down with her colony to huddle together for winter.
The Queen can also relax, no new queens will be born and threaten her hive, and she can take a break from constantly laying eggs - in summer it can be more than one egg a second! All she has to do is stay alive, and that will be enough to keep her colony content.
Once their hive is through wasp season, all they have to do is keep warm by huddling together and keep eating their nutritious honey supplies.
See you next year, wonderful honeybees.