Winters in St. Catharines are cold, and it’s not just people who need to keep warm to survive. Bees and wasps in the area have developed some great survival strategies to get through the long cold months. Their survival techniques range from shivering to hibernation.
To help protect your business or home from bees and wasps, Truly Nolen has prepared information on the species of each which call the Niagara area home.
Honeybees don’t fly south in the winter, in fact, they don’t fly at all when the weather gets too cold. As the temperature drops, they return to their hives and huddle together in the lower central area to form what is known as a winter cluster. As the bees group together, they flutter their wings and their bodies shiver to keep the hive warm. The queen will be found at the very center of the cluster with the worker bees huddled around. The workers will continuously rotate from the inside to the outside of the cluster to ensure that all the bees are kept warm and have an equal chance of survival. The shivering of the bees keeps the hive warm even when the outside temperature drops below freezing. As the weather gets colder, the cluster becomes more and more compact.
One of the reasons that bees work so hard in the warmer months is to ensure that they have sufficient food when the temperature drops. In order to produce enough body heat to survive the cold, bees will consume up to 30 pounds of honey during the winter. Oxidation of the honey also produces heat energy that is circulated throughout the hive by worker bees fanning their wings.
As the weather begins to warm up, the bees will leave the hive for short periods of time. Even though there is no food available yet, they need to do this to eliminate body waste. The bees are careful not to fly too far from the hive because if their body temperature drops too much they will not be allowed back inside.
Hornfaced bees are native to Japan and were only introduced to North America in the 1960s. These bees have a lifespan of only six weeks, and there is no differentiation between the queen and the workers. At the end of spring, female hornfaced bees make their own nests and lay eggs in individual cells divided by mud portions. Each cell is also stocked with pollen. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on pollen in its cell. When all the pollen has been eaten, the larvae will spin a cocoon and remain inactive for the entire summer. Eventually, the larvae will molt into pupae and become adults. These adults remain in their cocoons throughout the winter and the new generation only emerges again in the spring.
Carpenter bees drill tunnels and make nests in old, rotting wood so that they can hibernate to survive the cold Canadian winter. They emerge in the spring to mate and then the female will find a new nest to lay her eggs.
Most wasps cannot survive St. Catharine’s winters and many die during the cold months, but mated queens will attempt to survive by sheltering in crevices and hibernating. During this time they are not only vulnerable to the weather but also to predators. In fact, the colder the winter, the better their chances of survival because their natural predators, like spiders, are less active. Mild or warm winters also may see queens come out of hibernation too early and they will then starve to death as there is not be enough food available yet.
Do not try to remove a beehive or wasp nest from your property without professional help. In order to avoid being stung, it is best to call in commercial pest control experts, like Truly Nolen, to take care of any bees and wasps on your St. Catharines property.