For anyone who has ever wondered what kind of conversations I have late at night with my wife, this post is pretty much the answer.

Our backyard has been really thick all summer and into the early fall with all sorts of bees, wasps, yellowjackets, and the occasional hornet or cicada-killer, so when the weather turned colder a few days back, we were enjoying the lack of stinger-packing visitors to our patio.

Amy: Where do bees go in the winter time?

Me: (makes universal male shoulder-shrug to indicate a complete lack of knowledge and/or interest in this topic)

Amy: Do they fly south?

Me: (another shrug)

Amy: Do they hibernate like bears?

Me: (yet another shrug)

Amy: You should do a post on your website about this. We can't be the only ones who don't know the answer to this!

Me: That's stupid.

Where do those damn bees go?! (Getty Images)
Where do those damn bees go?! (Getty Images)

Before Continuing (and because I'd like to be able to go home at some point), I Should Point Out That I Asked Around Our Building Today And Discovered That No One Here Knew The Answer, Either

After doing a bunch of digging around to get this question figured out, I found that what happens when the weather gets cold depends on the type of bee being affected by cold.

According to,

  • Bumblebees: When the weather becomes inhospitable, bumblebees die off, but the queen survives the winter to repopulate in the spring. Overwintering queens dig holes in the ground or find shelter in hollow logs, nests, and compost piles. Each spring, they have to start over from scratch, building a new colony.
  • Honey bees: The male honey bees die off during the winter, but the female bees return to their hive to huddle around the queen and vibrate to keep warm. They survive off the honey gathered during their active seasons.
  • Carpenter bees: Carpenter bees are more solitary bees that attempt to survive the winter through hibernation. They wait out the winter in abandoned nest tunnels from spring.
Getty Images
Getty Images

What About Wasps, Yellowjackets, And Hornets? What Are They Doing When The Temperatures Drop?

There's a slightly different dynamic at work when it comes to Illinois' wasps and hornets and how they deal with winter weather. The majority of them simply die.

Because wasps and hornets are not made to endure cold temperatures they will die come late fall or early winter. The only ones to survive will be the mated queens who will hunker down somewhere they can hibernate until spring arrives; at which point they will start constructing a new nest. Both hornets and wasps are known for constructing their nests in new locations each year but sometimes they will go back to their old nests and build off of them.

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