The Buzz of Winter Bees

A favorite snippet of ours from Joyce Sidman’s “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold”

Illustration by Rick Allen

“We are an ancient tribe,
a hardy scrum.
Born with eyelash legs
and tinsel wings,
we are nothing on our own.
Together, we are One.

We scaled a million blooms
to reap the summer’s glow.
Now, in the merciless cold,
we share each morsel of heat,
each honeyed crumb.
We cram to a sizzling ball
to warm our queen, our heart, our home.

Alone, we would falter and drop,
a dot on the canvas of snow.
Together, we boil, we teem, we hum.

Deep in the winter hive,
we burn like a golden sun.”

-Joyce Sidman from “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

“Honeybees hang together at all times, but especially in winter. They are one of the few insects in the Northern Hemisphere that remain active in freezing weather, and they do it in typical bee fashion: by gathering, sharing, and communicating.

All summer they collect nectar, which they transform into honey in wax-covered cells. As the air turns colder, bees being to cluster around their queen, who represents the future of the hive. The colder it gets, the tighter they huddle, shrinking to a football-size mass that slowly eats its way through the carefully stored honey.

Hungry hive-mates farther from the honeycomb will “beg” for food, which is then passed from bee to bee. When hive temperatures drop to dangerous levels, the outer-rim bees sound the alarm and the cluster beings to “shiver”—flex their flight muscles—to generate heat.

While worker bees cycle in and out of the cluster’s warm center, the queen remains at its heart, ready to resume her egg-laying at the first sign of spring.”

-From “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

Check out the book and get your own copy to learn about all the wintering wildlife!