I am sat here on a nice comfy sofa with my legs stretched out in front of me. I am looking at a lovely open fire that is radiating warmth and I feel that slightly numb affect of a couple of glasses of wine. Music is playing in the background and the cat is asleep on the piano stool. A Saturday evening couldn’t really get much more relaxing.

I am sat here with a rather large conscience however. I cannot stop thinking about the poor honey bees stuck outside in their small wooden boxes with none of the creature comforts that I have just mentioned. Their only luxury I suppose is for a nice beekeeper to realise their plight and give them some nice sugary liquid to keep their stores topped up (note to self – must learn more about Feeding the Bees!)

It was the evening before my birthday (6th January) when Jo and I were taking down the Christmas decorations (I hate that about Christmas especially because when I was growing up my birthday was synominous with saying goodbye to Christmas for another year) that the snow started. Typically we had got most of the inside organised and all the baubles (big on baubles this year!) and other random accompaniments tidied away (even the remaining Christmas chocolate got tidied up!) and all that was left was the outside lights and to take the remains of the Christmas tree outside; this was when the sky decided to throw snow at me! It started pretty light as I was dealing with the Christmas tree but Mr Weather must have seen just how complicated a job it would be to take the outdoor lights down. I got well and truly smacked by snowball after snowball from above. Needless to say the snow just kept on coming and I got colder and colder.

We woke on my actual birthday to find the largest snowfall that I can recall. The view outside our window was majestic and there was no way I would have made it into work. As my birthday got under way my thoughts turned to how the bees must cope in this weather. What on earth would they do?

It has been said that this has been the longest cold spell for nearly 30 years and yet again the cynics of Global Warming are jumping on the bandwagon. Cold is one thing though but snow is quite another, especially when bees are concerned.

From what I understand, in the cold, the bees that remain in the hive over winter (there can be up to 60,000 during the summer) simply huddle up to keep the hive at a constant temperature (35ºC from memory). They simply take it in turns to cuddle the queen while the bees on the outside get very cold backs. Then they swap around and this carries on for the whole winter – amazing survival sense if you ask me!

The snow however, brings about a whole new challenge which I had never considered before reading one of my books in preparation of this blog. During the Winter I understand that bees rely on their own stores of honey to see them through the season. If there is not enough of this (a greedy beekeeper may have enjoyed a bit too much!) there maybe some artificial feed offered to the bees in the form of a sugary syrup. However, on a warmer or brighter day – there have been a lot of these in past winters – some bees do escape the hive to either forage or simply get rid of waste products. When it snows, despite the cold temperatures, you get an artificial brightness because of the UV light off of the snow! This can fool some bees into flying from the little huddle they have created which keeps them all warm. This is something I had never ever considered.

This is a travesty for them as they are ultimately cold blooded creatures. Therefore if they have been tempted outside of the hive, it is highly likely that they will not make it back inside because their muscles will simply cease up and they will not be able to fly at all. This is not a nice way to go. From my understanding all we can do is to brush away the snow from around the hive to avoid this situation!

What is for sure I much prefer thinking of the humble honey bee during the summer months when they have a fantastic set up and a fantastic job to do. Roll on summer I say!

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