How Do Honey Bees Survive the Winter?

Jody Morris, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Jody Morris, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

As hard as bees toil during their peak seasons—pollinating and generally making sure humanity doesn’t come crashing down in a Biblical-level disaster—you’d think the colder months would bring some kind of hibernation or rest, even if it means snowy death.

For bumblebees, that’s generally true. Unable to tolerate lower temperatures, mass bee graves in northern regions are not an uncommon sight, with only the queen retiring to a warm crevice. But for the honey bee, winter is a time to buckle down and labor even harder in an all-out effort to extend their life span.

Their secret: fly without actually moving.

A single honey bee will typically die of exposure once temperatures plummet to 28 degrees. In order to survive, a colony will need to (literally) huddle together to create a communal furnace fueled by their body heat. That’s generated by the bees contracting muscles in the thorax responsible for flight. The wings remain still, but the energy created can raise a bee’s core temperature.  

Having morphed into tiny space heaters, the bees arrange themselves into a cluster not unlike a football huddle, their little bee heads touching and their abdomens (which are cooler) facing out. The outermost layer flirts with a cooler temperature of 46 degrees, chilly but survivable. They comprise the shell, or “mantle,” that protects the queen. In the core, insulated by layers of bees, the temperature can get up to a downright toasty 95 degrees.

Bees also react to environmental changes. If things cool down further, they can contract and raise the temperature; warmer ambient weather allows them to relax and spread out a little. The mantle isn’t always stuck with the worst job, either. They can regularly burrow their way into the core to enjoy the bee equivalent of a cozy fireplace.

Typically, the bigger the cluster, the less each individual bee will have to work in order to maintain their thermostat setting, and the better the chance is for overall survival. But a huddle of any size requires energy, and their stockpile of honey might be just far enough away in the hive that breaking off from the group could mean death. The cluster will usually move in unison to reach untapped honey stores.     

Despite the ability of the honey bee to adapt to frigid temperatures, in modern times their survival often requires beekeeper intervention. Bees in particularly cold regions benefit from a layer of fiberglass insulation around the colony. Beekeepers also keep honey stores stocked to ensure the bees will have enough fuel.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How Do Astronauts Vote From Space?

Astronaut Kate Rubins casts her ballot from space.
Astronaut Kate Rubins casts her ballot from space.

Earlier this week, NASA announced that astronaut Kate Rubins had officially cast her vote from a makeshift voting booth aboard the International Space Station. As much as we’d like to believe her ballot came back to Earth in a tiny rocket, the actual transmission was much more mundane. Basically, it got sent to her county clerk as a PDF.

As NASA explains, voting from space begins the same way as voting abroad. Astronauts, like military members and other American citizens living overseas, must first submit a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) to request an absentee ballot. Once approved, they can blast off knowing that their ballot will soon follow.

After the astronaut’s county clerk completes a practice round with folks at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, they can start the real voting process. The astronaut will then receive two electronic documents: a password-protected ballot sent by the Space Center’s mission control center, and an email with the password sent by the county clerk. The astronaut then “downlinks” (sends via satellite signal) their filled-out ballot back to the Space Center attendants, who forward it to the county clerk. Since the clerk needs a password to open the ballot, they’re the only other person who sees the astronaut’s responses. Then, as NPR reports, they copy the votes onto a regular paper ballot and submit it with the rest of them.

Though Americans have been visiting space for more than half a century, the early jaunts weren’t long enough to necessitate setting up a voting system from orbit. That changed in 1996, when John Blaha missed out on voting in the general election because his spaceflight to Russia’s space station Mir began in September—before absentee voters received their ballots—and he didn’t return until January 1997. So, as The Washington Post reports, NASA officials collaborated with Texas government officials to pass a law allowing astronauts to cast their ballots from space. In the fall of 1997, David Wolf became the first astronaut to submit his vote from a space station. The law is specific to Texas because most active astronauts reside there, but NASA has said that the process can be done from other states if need be.