The Flora Button bees are currently coping with the cold temperatures, with just the occasional sighting when the temperature climbs to above 10 degrees. The main job of honeybees in the winter is to take care of the queen bee, keeping her safe and warm.
In order to do this, the worker bees surround the queen and form a cluster with their bodies - they then flutter their wings and shiver. This constant motion and continuous use of energy is how the bees keep the inside temperature of the hive warm. The worker bees rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster, so no individual worker bee gets too cold. The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.
All this work requires energy, so to produce body heat and to stay alive, the honeybees must rely on honey to keep them going - some studies have found that hives can consume up to 30lbs of stored honey over the course of a single winter. The job of the beekeeper is to make sure enough honey is left at the end of the harvesting season, and to feed supplements if necessary. It’s really important to keep an eye on the food supplies if possible, as it is not uncommon for a whole colony to starve to death.
Once the beginning of March comes, it is more probable that there will be a few days when the hive can be inspected. At this time of year the bees are likely to be more aggressive as there is little nectar flow so they are pretty hungry!
As soon as it is warm enough, the bees will come out to forage. In my garden, there are a few flowering plants which are useful for my floristry business, Flora Button, and are also popular with bees - winter flowering heather, mahonia, hellebores, evergreen clematis and
lungwort are the favourites. Also the lovely yellow winter aconites which carpet the ground are a real draw for the bees when the sun shines.