There is a big difference between the physiology of honey bee workers in the summer and those who survive the winter. Summer bees only have a lifespan of around 5-6 weeks while winter bees can live up to 3-6 months! This is very important since brood production basically stops in the winter. Winter bees can even be considered a different caste of honey bee!
The main reason for this difference is instead of running themselves ragged (literally, older summer foragers have tattered wings) foraging for food stores to feed the colony throughout the winter, winter bees conserve their energy and have larger fat bodies to help them survive the cold (or nectar dearth, depending on the climate). These fat bodies contain abundant vitellogenin which is a protein-rich substance that can take the place of pollen in the winter.
Winter bees spend their entire lives (except for the occasional cleansing flight) inside the hive caring for the queen, and in early spring will raise the brood that will inherit the colony and continue its growth in the coming warm months.
More Information: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/what-are-winter-bees-and-what-do-they-do/
Jen Haeger is a new master beekeeper and board member of A2B2.