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What do bees do at night?

30 May 2022
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Have you ever stopped to think, what do bees do at night? Everyone knows that the main job of most bees is to collect pollen during the warm daylight hours but where do bees go at night and what do they do?

Only thanks to a study conducted back in the 80s do we know the sleep-wake cycles of honeybees. Walter Kaiser a scientific researcher observed their sleep patterns and found that honeybees get an average of 6 hours of sleep each night.

Are Bees Active At Night?

The short answer is no, the majority of bees rest and sleep at night. This might seem obvious to us humans as sleep is something we can't live without but it wasn’t studied scientifically until the 1980s. Kaiser’s research was the first scientific detailed study showing that invertebrates sleep just like mammals.

Bees fall into three major categories defined by behaviour related to the day and night cycle.

  • Diurnal - Active during the day
  • Crepuscular - Active during dusk and dawn
  • Nocturnal - Active at night

There are some instances of nocturnal bees that operate purely during the nighttime but these are very much in the minority of bee species that behave in this manner.

You know when a bee is sleeping because its antennae will stop moving, they tuck their head and tail in with their wings resting on their body. Female bees sleep in a nest but solitary male bees sleep outside and away from predators, hiding in grass or flowers.

Do Bees Come Out At Night?

Most bees are diurnal and cannot fly during nighttime. Animals and creatures that are diurnal only carry out their duties during the day. That's not to say bees can't crawl at night, with minimal movement inside the nest or hive.

Some tropical bees have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle, a prime example of this would be the Indian carpenter bee which has evolved to take foraging flights on even the darkest of nights.

One reason why you're unlikely to see bees flying during the night is due to their tolerance to temperature. Bees prefer to be warm and some honeybees kill hornets by using their collective body temperature to cook them alive.

Unusual Reasons Why Bees Might Come Outside At Night

While it is very unusual to see bees at night, it is most often due to a disruption of their normal sleep cycle. This can be caused by bright lights near the hive and in some cases a full moon or bright stars in the night sky.

An infected hive can also explain unusual behaviour. The ‘Zombie Fly’ is a parasite, which is well-known for affecting the normal sleep pattern of bees, making them confused and do silly things such as abandoning the hive at night or during poor weather.

Can Bees See At Night?

A bee's vision is created by 5 eyes attached to the front of its head. This consists of two large compound eyes made of lots of tiny hexagons that allow separate vision, effectively letting the bee see left-right, up and down all at the same time.

Three simple eyes are positioned above the large compound eyes that are light sensitive and aid the bee in orientation while out foraging.

Nocturnal bees have evolved larger eyes that allow them to pick up any remaining light during the nighttime. In particular, the three simple eyes at the top of the bee's head become more enlarged, reaching nearly twice the size of that of the Diurnal bee species.

Conclusion

Just like us humans, bees will generally rest at night by getting up to 7 hours of sleep. Recharging their batteries ready for another day of foraging. It's unusual to see bees during the nighttime and even more unusual to see them flying as they rely on the light from the sun so they can see properly.

A happy bee is one with plenty of sun and plenty of food. We can all relate to this.

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