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Warm Winters Taking a Toll on Honey Bee Populations

February 12, 2020

Bee Colony Collapse, Honey Bees

Over the last few days, I have been seeing a lot of articles and studies about how climate change is impacting honey bees. Now, I would not really consider this particular concern a climate change issue, because we have always had pockets of warm days in the winter, sometimes more than others. The problem now is that we see varying weather more often, which is creating a significant problem for the hibernation period of the bees. For some, this is a direct result of climate change, while others will say it is just Mother Nature doing her thing.

Getting Fooled

This particular concern was addressed in an analysis by Climate Central. The report stated that overall, winters are getting warmer and warmer. While not a scientist, I would say that probably depends on where you live. For instance, I used to live in a shore town on the east coast and every winter we got killed with sub-zero wind chills and long periods of cold, dreary weather. The only change I really noticed was that when we would get a warm pocket of air, it would hang for multiple days, and this is where this particular issue lies.

During the winter, bees typically gather together to stay warm and feed off their honey supply. They stay inside the hive to ensure their warmth. When warm weather hits and hangs around for a few days, the honey bees get fooled and think spring has arrived. When that happens, they leave the hive to look for nectar and pollen to start making honey again. Linda Tillman, the President of the Georgia Beekeepers Association, stated, “If it is a really warm day, they start looking for the possibility that spring is actually here. And at this time of the year, there’s no nectar. So, they fuel themselves with the honey they have stored in the hive, and that uses up their stores.”

According to the report, overall, temperatures are about four degrees warmer in the winter now than in past years. Now, if that trend continues, it could be a problem. Local beekeeper Bobby Chaison stated right now this is just annoyance. Those that disagree with climate change say this is cyclical, so you can take whatever side of that argument you want (we are definitely not here to get political or make an argument either way on this issue). However, Chaison also stated, “But I think as it trends over the next 15, 20 years if it stays in this type of trend, where it’s getting warmer through the winters, it’s going to become a significant problem.”

To read the full Climate Central report, click here.

Source: WABE.org

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