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Beekeeper’s Notes: The Bees Are Keeping Each Other Warm

Published on: 1 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 29 Nov, 2021

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

All very quiet on the bee front at this time of year.

It’s too cold for them to fly so we don’t see them around. They are tucked up inside their hives keeping each other warm.

Beehive opened up revealing the cluster of bees

Beehive opened up revealing the cluster of bees inside.

They are insects and therefore cold blooded but they still need the warmth to function.

They solve this by huddling together in a mass; the colder it is outside, the tighter the huddle appears.

They generate heat by dislocating one of their two sets of wings, and then vibrating them like mad. Temperatures in the cluster can get up to mid 30 degrees centigrade.

They take turns to be on the outside so all the bees have a chance to keep warm.

Thermal image of bees clustering in a hive in cold conditions. You vcan make out the straight edges of the hive, the cold exterior (blue) and the warm sperical cluster of bees within.

Thermal image of bees clustering in a hive in cold conditions. You can make out the straight edges of the hive, the cold exterior (blue) and the warm spherical cluster of bees within.

You find bees on all continents except the Antarctic So they are well equipped to deal with all weathers, even the coldest.

And they have been around for, it is thought, over 100 million years. So whatever tactic they have devised to survive, it works for them.

Another topic. The issue of fake honey is being raised again. It is said to be one of the most frequently adulterated products in the world. See Beekeeper’s Notes: November 2016, Honey On Show

According to the EU, one in five honey samples in 2018 had either added bulk, cheap sweeteners or it had been artificially dried. It is easy to do and hard to detect.

The EU are now proposing to tighten up on labelling to take away the vague “sourced from EU and non-EU countries”. I hope we do the same.

Just as we know things aren’t right – for us or the chicken – when chickens are selling for as little as £3 a bird, we can be fairly confident when honey is sold cheaply, there is likely to be dodgy dealings going on.

Buy local if you can and you are more likely to get 100% honey instead of corn syrup.

Happy Christmas.

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