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Can light bulbs kill bees?

12 April 2022
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Yes, very hot light bulbs or light fixtures will kill bees on impact. Bees are attracted to light much like other flying insects via an innate positive phototactic response. This response increases considerably as the bee reaches maturity.

The short video below shows the extreme reaction bees have to sources of light:

Why are bees attracted to light bulbs?

Many flying insects seem to be drawn toward light sources, but why does this happen and how does light attract bees in the first place?

Light acts as a kind of stimulant for bees, the system by which a bee is drawn to light is called positive phototaxis. The positive indicates the bee's movement towards the light source, in stark contrast animals that actively move away from light are undertaking negative phototaxis.

Positive phototaxis becomes more prevalent as bees mature, young bees will spend the first 2-3 weeks of their life within the hive, as their attraction to light increases their instincts will naturally encourage them to leave the hive and to either forage or mate.

Young bees will go through several chemical changes in their brain and endocrine system that cause the progressive attraction to light sources.

Will bees fly towards a light bulb at night?

Bees as a majority are inactive at night. The setting sun is an indicator for bees to return to the hive or nest so it's unlikely any bees will seek out light sources after the sun has set.

Young bees have been observed to stay active during the night but their need to stay within the hive and lack of proper flying skills will mean they are very unlikely to venture out past dark.

In some cases where the hive or nest is exposed to artificial light, the bees within may struggle to identify the lack of natural light and continue to forage in the surrounding area. This could lead to some bees becoming attracted to artificial light and expiring due to exhaustion or heat.

This can lead to severe consequences for the colony as a whole, if bees can't clearly understand when to stop foraging they run the risk of severe exhaustion. Due to the calories required to fly and maintain a healthy body temperature bees only have approximately 40 minutes' worth of food stored at any one time.

To avoid this simply ensure your managed hive or wild nest is completely removed from any artificial light sources.

In conclusion

Hot light bulbs and light bulb fittings can kill bees on rare occasions. If you have managed hives in your garden or on your property, ensure they are removed from any artificial light.

Bees aren't the only insects attracted to light bulbs and some of these insects will be active after dark. Consider changing your light bulbs or light fixtures for an alternative that produces less heat.

This will ensure that any bees or insects are safe from harm and reduce your energy costs at the sam time.

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