Torpor Doesn’t Mean Dead

When I first learned about torpor at Honey Bee Suite, I thought, man, this is the coolest thing (no pun intended). It allowed me to relax about any winter beekeeping I’ve had to do over the years.


I tore apart and rebuilt a hive in the middle of winter while it was snowing once — full frames of bees exposed to the cold, all that jazz — and the bees didn’t freeze to death. They slipped into a state of torpor, which means they got so cold they couldn’t move, and they looked dead, but they weren’t dead. They came back to life once they were able to build up the heat inside their hive again. I admit that it isn’t a great idea to open a hive in the middle of winter and let out all the heat (when I have to do it, I make sure to do it early in the day when the bees have the rest of the day to regain hive heat before nightfall), but it’s not necessarily a death sentence for the colony. Here’s the best example I’ve ever posted of bees that look completely dead lying in the snow, and then come back to life 100% after warming up inside my house:

2 thoughts on “Torpor Doesn’t Mean Dead

  1. Hi Phillip
    I’ve had a similar experience in the summer with wet bees that seemed dead. I put them in the sun and within 20 minutes they were beautiful and flew back to the hive(I’m guessing) What did you do with these bees in the jar? How does this story end? Did you open the hive and put them back?

  2. Yup, being wet would have the same affect, from my understanding.

    I had hard time putting the bees back in the hive because I didn’t want to open the hive and let out more heat late in the day. Put the open jar up the top entrance, but the bees wouldn’t walk in. So I had to dump down that bottom entrance and let them walk in from there. Honestly, I’m not sure if they made it back to the cluster.

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