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Shivering themselves warm in winter

Verena Bauer • 22/12/2022
Bee hotels in the winter garden Bee hotels in the winter garden

The nights are long, the trees are bare and the migratory birds have already flown south. Winter is here. While our daily routine continues as usual, the life of our approximately 500,000 C&W honey bees changes drastically during the cold season.

When the temperature falls to around 8 degrees, the bees huddle together very closely and form a so-called winter cluster. In the middle sits the queen and enjoys pleasant summer temperatures of around 25 degrees. If it gets too cold for a bee in the cluster, it crawls into the middle of the swarm to warm up. They generate the energy by means of muscle contractions. You could almost say they shiver themselves warm. This energy-draining task is performed by young bees that have not yet expended much energy and have built up a fat-protein layer. Under these conditions, they have an extended lifespan and can survive the cold season well.

A nectar-gathering honey bee lives only six weeks in comparison. The old bees do not go into "hibernation" with them, but they take on important tasks for winter preparation. They eagerly collect pollen and nectar for the larder and winter-proof the beehive, carefully sealing every gap with hardened plant resin (propolis) to protect their hibernating family from drafts. This saves energy and increases the colony's chance of survival. 

Facade insulation for houses Facade insulation for houses

Good building insulation is the foundation of an ESG-compliant property

We can follow the example set by our bee-colleagues. Because we too should prepare our property as well as possible for the winter in order to save energy and heating costs. And ideally, we should do this right from the "building the honeycomb" stage. "In the case of new buildings and conversions, i.e. when buildings are converted to a different use, attention can already be paid to good insulation of the facades, interior walls and roofs, for example, during the planning stage. Here it is advisable to use sustainable insulation and building materials. And this not only has an effect on the insulation effect, but on the carbon footprint as a whole. With CO2-reduced concrete, as for used in the EDGE East Side Berlin project, up to 50 percent of the carbon dioxide emission can be reduced," says Frank D. Masuhr, Head of Project & Development Services DACH at Cushman & Wakefield. "Such sustainable planning in accordance with ESG criteria brings many advantages for owners. To name just a few: Lower energy costs, higher rents, long-term tenancies and an increase in the value of the property. Corresponding building certifications provide evidence of social and ecological sustainability." 

The air conditioning and heating control panel for the office on a white wall The air conditioning and heating control panel for the office on a white wall

The right use of heating can save a lot of energy

"In the case of existing properties, there are limited options for energy optimisation during ongoing operation, such as retroactively sealing windows and doors or the retrofitting of building automation and sensor technology. However, the initiation and implementation of such measures normally lies with the asset and facility managers of the buildings concerned. However, as in private households, correct user behaviour can already achieve a lot," advises Frank D. Masuhr. "This includes, among other things, “shock ventilation” - regular full but short duration airing, and the use-related adjustment of heating and air-conditioning systems. Even a one degree reduction in room temperature reduces energy costs by an average of six percent. It also makes sense to retrofit your heating systems with electronic thermostatic valves. In this way, the desired temperatures and usage times can be entered exactly. The heaters then simply switch themselves off in the evenings, at weekends or in the event of a sudden drop in temperature, e.g. through shock ventilation. Similar to smart home solutions in private apartments, radiators can even be operated via app. Just quickly turn on the heating from the car via smartphone, fifteen minutes later you're already sitting in a warm office." 

A bee on white snowdrops flower in sunny garden A bee on white snowdrops flower in sunny garden

While our heating is running at full blast in January, our bees are already preparing for the coming spring. The temperature in the brood nest rises to 35 degrees and the queen begins to lay eggs. Hidden from our gaze, many little bees hatch and develop in our C&W beehive. As soon as the thermometer climbs to 12 degrees, the beneficial little workers come into their element again. They sally forth and pollinate the first spring flowers.

Empty wood table next to window view of pine tree in snow fall Empty wood table next to window view of pine tree in snow fall

"Attention should already be paid to environmentally friendly insulation and building materials during the planning of buildings, as well as to a sustainable energy supply and building technology in order to make the property future-proof in accordance with ESG." 

Frank D. Masuhr | Head of Project & Development Services DACH



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