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In the Northern Hemisphere today is the longest and darkest of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere it is high summer. 

Winter Solstice – A Day for Beekeeper Celebration. Tomorrow we enter the season of growth!

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. (On the same date the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night.) But tomorrow the days will begin lengthening.

Winter Solstice means something different to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for humans. But for the bees it’s the beginning of spring. For beekeepers in the Northern Hemisphere today marks the beginning of growth. ~sassafrasbeefarm

The annual cycle for a honey bee colony is much easier to understand when you look at bees from the standpoint of their over-riding goal: survival of the species.

Throughout the year, honey bees respond to external cues provided by nature – they don’t keep a wall calendar inside their hive – and once you understand how honey bees reproduce, their two-season life cycle begins to make sense.

A year for a honey bee colony can be divided into two halves.  One half is characterized by expansion, and the other by contraction.  The half that is characterized by expansion begins soon after the winter solstice.  Some research seems to indicate that honey bees respond directly to changes in the amount of daylight, while other research says that they don’t.  But regardless of how it works, we know that brood rearing increases soon after the winter solstice, and decreases soon after the summer solstice.

Shortly after the winter solstice, many things happen inside the colony to increase brood production.  For example, the workers begin to raise the temperature of the brood nest.  These warmer temperatures stimulate the queen to lay eggs—just a few at first, but more and more as time goes on.  Of course, keeping the colony warmer requires more honey stores just when those stores begin to be depleted.  So the colony has to manage a very delicate balance of population-to-stores.

Why the expansion?  Why now?  The answer is simple: reproduction.  The colony is preparing to capitalize on the window of opportunity to reproduce that will come in the early spring.  How does a colony reproduce?  By casting a swarm.

Read the full article here: Honey Bees and the Winter Solstice — Host a Honey Bee Hive