A beautiful article written by our dear Yvonne Gluyas (Launceston, Tasmania):
Bees love winter! Well, maybe not as much as they love spring but, like us humans, they make the best they can of this chilly season.
In Tasmania, winters can be long and cold, with temperatures dropping to well below freezing. In places such as the iconic World-Heritage listed Cradle Mountain area in the Central Highlands of the State, there is often deep snow blanketing the ground during winter.
The fragrant white blossoms of the Leatherwood Trees, much favoured by the honeybees, are gone, waiting for spring. The bees are hiding too, clustered for warmth in their hives. No, they are not hibernating; they are actively surviving by huddling together indoors and like us, try hard to keep their home warm.
By attaching themselves to each other with the Queen in the centre of the cluster they are well prepared to wait out the winter. The movement of their bodies through shivering and flapping their wings creates warmth and keeps their Queen cosy and warm. This takes up a lot of energy, which needs to be replenished by feeding themselves. As there are no blossoms to give them the nectar they need to survive, they consume the honey that has been stored in the hive.
And us humans? Perhaps we will take a trip to Cradle Mountain, making our way there along icy roads, and see the Leatherwood trees, their branches heavy with snow instead of flowers. Like the bees, we need to stay warm… not by clustering together in our hive, but by wearing thick coats, scarves, hats and gloves. Sometimes you can hardly recognise your friends under all that clothing… I wonder if the bees can recognise each other as they crowd together to protect their Queen?
As we have fun, making snowballs and admiring the pristine environment we are trekking through, we imagine the hard working bees enjoying their winter honey feast.
We get a bit hungry too… and enjoy our sandwiches spread thick with delicious honey!
So next time you open a jar of honey, think of my friends and I, having a great time outdoors during the Tasmanian winter… and the honeybees, clustered together for warmth in their hive.