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Do Bees Sting In Winter?

Do Bees Sting In Winter?

It is not often that you see a bee flying around in winter or during cold weather. The reason is that they simply cannot tolerate cooler temperatures and rarely leave the hive during the wintertime. If the bee leaves the hive in winter, there is a good reason for it and they may be more irritable and aggressive if you see them – so, do bees sting in winter?

Yes, bees sting you in the winter and are more inclined to sting during colder weather. Bees rarely leave the hive in cold temperatures, so if you see a bee in winter, it is likely on a mission.

Bees will feel threatened more easily and are more temperamental during these encounters and may sting readily. The best advice is to steer clear of wintertime bees when possible.

Bees and Cold Temperatures

Bees do not like cold weather. In fact, temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit kill them! This may be why bees in winter are so aggressive and more inclined to sting than during warmer weather.

Winter bee stings hurt! Bees are not usually out in cold weather, so if you see one, there is a good reason. This makes the bee less friendly and more irritable, so stay out of its way when you can.  

Cold weather makes it harder for bees to fly and some become lethargic.

They stay warm by huddling together in the hive when temperatures begin to drop- sometimes achieving a body temperature of over 110 degrees F! To stay warm, the bees also eat a lot of honey in wintertime, which is stored in the hive.

Winter Bee Stings

Winter stings are more severe and hurt more than a sting you may endure in summer. The reason is that the bees sting more aggressively and more vigorously in cold temperatures. They feel threatened more easily and attack, rather than sting, their victim.

In warmer temperatures, it is intuitive for a bee to sting and then fly away or flee the scene. In winter, the bee acts as though it is their last act, and they give it a lot of energy.

In most cases, a bee will die shortly after stinging whether in the summer or in the winter, but the difference is that in cooler weather, the bee will hang on for as long as possible. This means the sting contains more venom, which can increase your sensitivity to being stung. Stings in winter are more painful.

Homes, Hives, and Habitats

Bees generally live in colonies inside a hive during cooler weather. Honeybees do not hibernate, but their hive’s queen does. Bees typically shelter-in-place, so to speak, with other members of their bee community until the warmer temperatures of spring.

Some types of bees may burrow underground and live in nests during wintertime. They usually look for cracks or crevices in the earth that will allow access.

Honeybees remain active during winter, gathering to huddle and also to protect their hibernating queen bee.

A bunch of bees sat on a honeycomb

Bees on the Move

So, why would a bee fly from the hive during the cold winter? Well, there are a few good reasons to leave the hive, though usually on a warmer winter day.

Depending on food reserves, bees may leave the hive to forage for pollen to feed larvae. If there is a dead bee in the hive, bees may leave the hive to remove them in winter.

When the weather starts to warm up and the temperatures begin to get in the high 50s Fahrenheit, bees may leave the hive for a cleansing flight.

This is basically a bathroom break, as bees can hold it for weeks. Plus, bees never relieve themselves inside the hive.

Bee Sting FAQs

What happens when a bee stings you in the winter?

When a bee stings in the winter, they attack. They dig in with their stinger and hang on. Bees in the summer will sting and then flee, often dying shortly after.

Are winter bees worse than summer bees?

Bees are under different types of stress during cooler weather. They can be more irritable and prone to stinging. Winter bee stings are worse than summer bee stings.

How do bees stay warm in the wintertime?

Bees huddle together in the hive to stay warm. Bees shiver and this shivering sensation among them all helps to keep them all comfortable during cold temperatures.

What is the difference between a winter and a summer bee sting?

Winter stings are usually more severe and involve more venom than a summer or warm weather sting. Bees typically flee after stinging in summer, but in winter, they linger and hang on during their attack. The result is a more painful sting.

Are winter bees more aggressive than warm-weather bees?

Bees are more aggressive and apt to sting during colder weather and winter. Never open a beehive during winter- you risk being stung and you risk killing the bees.

How to know if bees are alive in their hive in winter?

On warmer days with no wind- 50s and higher Fahrenheit- take a look by lifting the cover of the hive to check on the bees.

If you hear the bees humming when you gently tap on the side of the hive, you will know they are alive. Some beekeepers use a medical stethoscope to detect and hear the sounds of bees to determine if they are okay.

Avoid opening the cover in cold temperatures or you risk killing the entire population of the hive.

Why would a bee be out flying around in winter?

A bee may be seen flying around in winter when it needs to relieve itself or go to the bathroom. This is called a ‘cleansing flight’. Also, they could be foraging for pollen.

Be wary of bees that you see in winter, as they can be more aggressive delivering more venom in their sting if disturbed or under threat.

Remember that the bee is likely only leaving its hive out of necessity- leave it be and let it go on its way. If you are stung by a bee in winter and have sensitivities or allergies, see your medical provider.