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Why do bees act drunk?

7 April 2022
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Bees are normally calculated foragers with a unified goal and a strict schedule. So why are some of the hive's inhabitants bumping into trees, getting lost, walking round in circles or simply unable to fly, why do bees act drunk?

Bees really are drunk

To put it simply they're plastered, smashed, paralytic or any other word you can think of. Just like humans do, these bees have ingested large amounts of alcohol and are behaving as such.

In the summer heat, nectar will begin to ferment and create ethanol, bees that digest this fermented nectar will fall prey to the same effects we do when we consume alcohol. Tree sap like that of the Lime tree can also ferment under excessive heat leading to a myriad of drunk bees.

Bees will appear lost, dizzy and generally without purpose when they have consumed too much fermented nectar.

What happens to drunk bees

Boozed-up bees returning to the hive are often met with a vicious response from the colonies' inhabitants.

Guard bees normally tasked with protecting the hive or nests entrance from intruders are also tasked as a form of bouncer for returning bees. Any signs of a bee having consumed alcohol will be met with a quick but violent response.

Guard bees will violently eject drunk bees from the entrance of the hive often removing wings and legs in the process. While this may seem harsh it is a necessary evil for the greater good of the colony as a whole.

If fermented nectar was allowed to enter the hive and be transformed into honey and eventually mead, it could risk paralysing all of the hive's inhabitants to devastating effect.

Testing anti-alcoholism drugs on bees

Bees are nature's hardiest drinkers. Unlike us, bees have the ability to ingest large amounts of 100% proof alcohol without dying. This would be the equivalent of a human consuming straight ethanol.

Now scientists from the UK and America use bees to test newanti-alcoholism drugs. They allow bees to consume alcohol and then trial the effects of the drugs to test efficacy.

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