Where are the bees in a cold winter night? – South Mountain Bees
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Where are the bees in a cold winter night?

It's cold out. It's now 34F(1C), and one wonders what are the bees up to.

There's a common misconception that bees hibernate, but they actually do not. In order to keep each other warm and secure the survival of the queen, they cluster. The colder the weather, the tighter the cluster. 

By clustering they conserve the heat the generate by metabolizing honey and being active. Even when it is frigid cold outside, the bee cluster's temperature is about 80F(27C).

In these thermal pictures I just took, you can see where the cluster is in each hive. You can see a clear red cluster in the middle of the left picture, while in the second picture the bees are at the top.

bees cluster in thermal image  

Here you can get a different view using different color schemes for the hive with the bees at the top.

thermal image of bee cluster in winter night  thermal image of bee cluster in winter night

The cluster moves as a unit, and it can only go up. They don't move down, and they don't go sideways either. There must be a reason, but I don't know it. What I know is that most beekeepers have seen bees die of starvation only a couple of inches away from plenty of honey to feed them all. They only consume the honey that is in their upward path.

What these images tell me as a beekeeper is that the bees in the cluster in the middle of the hive, have plenty of food, they still have a ways to go upward, and I can leave them alone; they seem to be doing fine. While the bees at the top are consuming the emergency food I gave them in my last check up: granulated sugar.

So now I know that I need to make sure those girls have some emergency food to eat until the dandelions bloom.