During the warm summer days bees have no problem keeping a hive at the optimum temperature for brood rearing and for honey processing. Now that the weather has turned cooler and plants have stopped producing nectar, the bees need to perform use find ways to keep themselves warm.

When the outside temperature falls below 14°C bees start to cluster. This is when they form a loose ball of bees with the queen near the middle where the heat is concentrated. Work continues in the hive, with the queen continuing to lay a small number of eggs. As the temperature drops further the cluster becomes tighter still, with older bees on the outermost layer, and young bees towards the centre. They also vibrate their wing muscles to generate heat. Amazingly, they keep the core temperate around 34°C during brood rearing, and 29°C when no brood is present.

The cluster stays in the hive throughout the colder period of the year, and can remain in this configuration for months on end, moving around the frames of stores to keep themselves fed.

The picture shows the bees clustered loosely. It will be interesting to see how the cluster changes shape and moves around during the winter months.