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Ask Dr. Universe honey bees

How can we help bees survive harsh winters? – Carla, 10, Texas

Dear Carla,

I keep mason bees. They sleep in cardboard tubes all winter long. I worry about my little bees until I see them chew out of their nesting tubes in the spring.

I talked about how mason bees and all kinds of bees survive winter with my friend Brandon Hopkins. He’s an insect scientist at Washington State University. He manages the honey bees on campus.

The honey bees we see in North America today first arrived with Europeans in the 1600s. We love honey bees because they pollinate our crops and make delicious honey. But there are lots of bees that have always lived here—like bumble bees, squash bees and mason bees. Those are native bees.

Most native bees survive the cold by overwintering in the nests where they were born. That could be tucked into the soil or leafy debris. It could be nestled inside hollow plant stems, holes in wood or tubes like my mason bees. Some native bees like bumble bees live in colonies. Only the queen survives the winter. She digs into the earth or finds a hollow tree and hibernates there.

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