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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Bee Deaths - and Still a Strong Hive

The bees that go into winter are not the same as the bees who live in the summer.  The summer bee has her work cut out for her.  She progresses through jobs in the hive, beginning with housecleaner and nursemaid and ending with forager.  Each job prepares her for her next assignment and each wears her out a little more.  Old summer bees have ragged wings and if you see one who looks like that, she is close to death.

Winter bees are different.  First there are no drones in the wintering hives (sometimes one or two) because they are a drain on the hive resources; contribute nothing during the winter; and  the queen can create them from unfertilized eggs as spring approaches.

Winter bees live longer.  Summer bees live about six extremely active weeks.  Winter bees in cold temperate climates may live for 150 days (Winston, p. 215).  In an area like Atlanta where we typically are not a cold temperate climate, the winter bees may live a slightly shorter amount of time.  In the hive during the winter, bees do die and their bodies are cleaned out when the temperatures are warm enough to fly.

Here's what it looks like around my surviving colony in my backyard:

 As you can see around the base of the hive, it looks like an enormous bee graveyard.  The ground has been littered with bodies like this every time we have a cold snap.  In the interim, the yard guys show up and blow them off so this pile is purely from the ice storm last week.

Yet there are still thousands of bees in this hive.  I have a "Billy Davis" robber screen on the hive and there are bees massed under the screened wire, just enjoying the sunshine.  

Here's a closer view or two of the dead, lying en masse outside the hive.

The bees who are flying into the hive have packed pollen baskets.  You might notice that some of the dead bees also have packed pollen baskets.  

I am amazed at the strength of this hive and the numbers of bees who have lived here through our extremely cold winter.  In Atlanta we often have a week of snow in March, so it's not over yet.


  1. Linda, I took the chance on Saturday with almost 70 degree temps to check my hive. All the bees were at the top and to one side of bottom deep. I spotted the queen, same one with red dot, I started the hive with last year. They were bringing in LOTS of pollen and notice what looked like nectar being stored. There was only about 3 full frames of bees and about half a frame of open and closed brood. I moved one frame of honey to either side of the cluster just to make sure they could find it if it turned cold again, which I am sure it will. There is a completely full medium supper of honey on top. Did I miss anything? Was moving the honey frames to either side of the cluster the right thing to do? Thanks.

  2. Congratulations on the blog!
    Really it is very interesting and contains lots of important information for the amentes bees.

    Paul Romero.
    Meliponary Braz.

  3. Linda, I really enjoy your blog. It still astonishes me how many bees come out of the hive when the workers "bring out the dead" on warm days! In PA, we are not having any warm days yet, but soon, I hope!


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