Winter Removals – Why *not* to do them

I’m often asked by a homeowner to perform a honeybee removal in the winter.  My removals are “live” removals – and I do not kill the honeybees to remove them.

Education about aspects of the honeybee’s lives is essential to let homeowners know why I generally choose to NOT remove bees from someone’s home, tree, or utility box when the “timing is not right”.

Honeybees try to maintain a temperature within their hive at approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  During the summer, they will bring water into the cells of their hive and fan their wings to create a natural method of evaporative cooling.

During the winter, the honeybees consume their stored honey as a carbohydrate that allows them to shiver, and this generates heat from their cluster – to also maintain about 95 degrees Fahrenheit within the cluster of bees.  Early in the fall/winter this cluster of bees also happens to be keeping the eggs and larvae warm.  These last eggs and developing larvae are the bees that will get the colony through the winter – so their survival is essential to the success of a honeybee colony.

Imagine if you will – if your home was set at a comfortable heated temperature for us humans.  Say about 70 degrees in the winter.  But then, a natural disaster may hit and remove the roof of your home.  Suddenly, you can no longer maintain 70 degrees outside, and you are subject to exposure to the elements and temperature of the outside.  If it happens to be 40 degrees F. outside, then you may be subject to hypothermia.  The same applies for the bees.  The eggs and larvae must stay at 95 degrees in order to survive in their honeycomb cell long enough to hatch and join their colony.

When a hive is opened up, this allows the bees’ generated heat to escape. The honeycomb is exposed to the air temperatures that are present, and the brood can experience what’s called “chilled brood” – and they may die.

That, my friends, is why we don’t perform live honeybee removals in cold weather.  Night time temperatures need to be well above 50 degrees F., and it’s preferable to have daytime temps above 75-80 deg. F.

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