With the cold weather setting in, some animals starting to bed down for the winter. But, not in the way you may think – they are not just sleeping!
What is hibernation?
While you may think that hibernating animals are sleeping, they are in fact in an extended state of torpor. This means that their metabolic rate, body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate are lower than normal. In this state, they require less energy, thus less food, to survive.
Generally, hibernating refers to animals that ‘sleep’ through winter, but it is possible for animals to hibernate through summer as well, although this is known as aestivating.
Winter is cold, and there’s less food around for animals to eat; conditions are tough! Some animals get around the problem by migrating to warmer more food-filled areas, but for small animals, long journeys aren’t always possible. Staying put, getting comfy in a warm den or burrow and hibernating, is a better option.
How animals prepare for hibernation
Animals survive hibernation by living off fat reserves built up over the summer and autumn months, so before hibernating, they eat, a lot! The more they eat, the more likely they are to survive winter.
When the temperature starts to drop and winter approaches they will start looking for places to hide. For bumblebees, insect hotels with hollow tubes are perfect, so why not create a space for nature and build one in your garden?