mason bee

10 Ways To Help Bees In Winter

As the winter months approach, bees, those tireless pollinators essential to our ecosystem and food supply, face unique challenges in their struggle for survival. Harsh temperatures, limited food sources, and the need to protect their hives or nests all become critical considerations during this time.

However, our efforts can make a significant difference in helping these invaluable insects endure the winter successfully. In this article, we will explore various practical strategies and tips to support bees through the colder months, ensuring their populations thrive when spring arrives.

Whether you’re a seasoned beekeeper or simply a nature enthusiast looking to make a positive impact, the following guidance will empower you to play a vital role in safeguarding these remarkable creatures during the winter season.

Where do bees and pollinators go in the winter?

During the winter, bees and pollinators employ various strategies to survive the cold and harsh conditions. Honeybees, for example, cluster together in their hives, forming a tight ball around their queen to conserve warmth. They consume stored honey for energy and vibrate their wing muscles to generate heat.

Solitary bees, on the other hand, often seek shelter in underground burrows, rotting wood, or other natural crevices. They hibernate in these protected locations, waiting for warmer temperatures to emerge and resume their activities.

Bumblebees, being social insects, also hunker down in underground nests, although their colonies are much smaller than honeybee colonies. Many other pollinators, such as butterflies and moths, overwinter in various life stages.

Some may overwinter as pupae, while others as adults, finding refuge in leaf litter, tree bark, or sheltered nooks. It’s essential to provide these pollinators with suitable habitats and resources throughout the year to ensure their survival during the winter months.

How to help bees in winter

Helping bees and other pollinators survive the winter is crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems and ensuring the pollination of many of our food crops. Here are ten things you can do to support them during the winter months:

  1. Plant Winter-Blooming Flowers: Select and plant a variety of native flowers that bloom in the late fall and late winter to early spring. This provides a food source for bees when other plants are dormant. Examples of these flowers include Goldenrod and Autumn Crocus for the fall, as well as Crocuses and Snowdrops for the springtime.
  2. Leave Some Garden Messiness: Avoid completely cleaning up your garden in the fall. Leave some leaf litter and dead plant stems as shelter for overwintering insects, including bees. Many types of solitary pollinators will use leaf litter and other garden debris to hibernate over winter.
  3. Provide Shelter: Build or buy bee houses or nesting boxes for solitary bees like mason bees and leafcutter bees. These structures give them a safe place to lay their eggs and spend the winter.
  4. Create Windbreaks: Plant hedges or shrubs to create windbreaks that protect bee nests and hibernating insects from harsh winter winds.
  5. Avoid Pesticides: Refrain from using pesticides in your garden or yard, especially during the fall and winter. These chemicals can harm bees and other beneficial insects.
  6. Leave Water Out: Place shallow dishes of fresh water in your garden. Bees and other pollinators need water, even in the winter, to stay hydrated.
  7. Provide Food: Leave out a sugar-water solution (2:1 sugar to water) in a shallow dish or a bee-friendly feeder. This can help supplement their diet during lean times.
  8. Insulate Beehives: If you keep honeybee hives, make sure they are well-insulated to help the colony survive the cold. Check for adequate food stores and provide supplemental feeding if necessary.
  9. Minimize Disruptions: During the winter, avoid disturbing hibernating insects or bee nests. Be cautious when working in your garden or yard.
  10. Educate Others: Spread awareness about the importance of pollinators and share information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitats in your community.

Remember that supporting pollinators is an ongoing effort, not just a seasonal one. By implementing these practices, you can help ensure that bees and other pollinators have a better chance of surviving the winter and thriving throughout the year.

Thomas Nelson
Gardening Expert
Hi! I'm Thomas, one of the founders of The Garden Magazine. I come from a long line of gardeners who used the art of gardening as a way to live long, healthy lives. I'm here to share my knowledge of gardening with the world!