DEAR JOAN: All summer we watched and admired the bees working tirelessly to collect honey for their hive.

It's winter now. How will that honey be distributed? I can't imagine a serve-yourself buffet line.

Do most of the older bees die, leaving the food for the younger ones? What exactly does go on inside that hive?

What becomes of the now-empty wax honeycombs?

Walt Loucks

South San Francisco

DEAR WALT: The bees make and store honey to eat during the winter, when nectar is not as readily available and it's too cold to go foraging. The nectar is converted to honey by the removal of most of the water, and it is stored in the honeycomb cells.

Bees swarm over the honeycomb.
Bees swarm over the honeycomb. (Ed Suba Jr/Akron Beacon Journal)

The population of the hive is at its lowest in the winter. Overcrowded colonies will have divided earlier, with the queen flying off with part of work force to create a new hive, and a new queen taking over the old hive. The drones' usefulness is over by the end of the summer and they die off naturally, or are killed by the worker bees to reduce demand on the food supply. However, neither the workers nor the drones have very long life spans -- several weeks for drones, several months for workers. A queen can live up to four years.


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The main concern during the winter is keeping the colony warm. There are no broods to feed, no eggs to mind and no nectar to gather. The bees huddle around the queen, vibrating their wings to generate heat. As with pretty much everything bee-related, it's all very regulated and the bees eat when they need to replenish their energy. Not exactly a serve-yourself buffet but close to it.

The honeycomb is reused. Whether it's holding honey or larvae, the structure remains and only the wax cap is removed to get at whatever is inside.

Hours of dog glory

The 2013 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is no longer televised, but dog enthusiasts from around the world can have a ringside seat courtesy of live streaming video being offered by Eukanuba.

We've set up a link on our pets and wildlife page, www.mercurynews.com/pets-animals, so you can watch every minute. You'll also find more information at Live.Eukanuba.com.

Streaming starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

So what's your favorite breed? I'll be rooting for the Chihuahua, of course, but it's amazing to see all of those beautiful dogs strutting their stuff.

Lost cat

A Livermore man is desperate to find his daughter's cat, which was accidentally lost while the man was decorating the house for Christmas.

Mr. Purkins, an indoor-only cat, ran out through an open door on Dec. 1 and hasn't been seen since.

He was not wearing a collar. The man, Keith Jess, thinks someone may have taken him in, not realizing it is not a stray. He's hoping that if someone has seen or found him, they'll contact him at 510-501-8652.

Mr. Purkins belongs to Jess' daughter, who is due home from college soon, and who will be heartbroken if he isn't found.

The Jess family lives near Yale Way in Livermore.

Mr. Purkins (or Mr. P, as they call him) is seen here.

Mr. Purkins, also known as Mr. P., has been missing almost two weeks. Have you seen him?
Mr. Purkins, also known as Mr. P., has been missing almost two weeks. Have you seen him? (Courtesy of Keith Jess)

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.