It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced or inexperienced beekeeper, having a hive or two can be a rewarding hobby. There are, however, a few basics you need to take note of when in possession of one or more beehives.
Yes, you can open your beehive at night and even rob honey from your bees. Bees can see you at night, but your vision is reduced. The lack of light makes brushing your bees off the frames much harder, and if you are not covered correctly, they will sting you. Bees fly to any light, so positioning a light source will be difficult.
When it comes to the wonderful world of beekeeping, it all comes down to observation! Keep on reading, as there are several things to learn when deciding to open your beehive at night!
Beekeeping At Night
This is a big question that will cause hundreds of African beekeepers to rethink some of their ways of managing their bees. The Africanized honey bee (AHB) has shown multiple behavior patterns that have lead to evidence that shows Africanized honey bees are often more manageable in the dark.
Almost all bees are inactive during the night. The queen lays eggs day and night in April and May, but bees are commonly resting at night. While the bees don’t always go to sleep, they are motionless. This retains their energy for the coming day.
The fact that the Africanized honey bee seems to be calmer during the nighttime surprised scientists. Tests were conducted that colonies of European honey bees at night tend to be much more aggressive than during daytime. It is exceptionally difficult to defend yourself against an unseen honey bee that crawls and stings.
However, the risk of getting stung by crawling Africanized bees at night seems to be more preferable to facing the bees’ defensiveness during the daytime. Honey harvesting during nighttime is a common practice in South Africa. The beekeeper can see using red lights that cause enough light to see, but the bees perceive it as dark.
It makes a lot more sense to harvest your honey during the nighttime since fewer bees are left in the hives. The bees in the hive at night are commonly younger bees that are less likely to sting. You can then collect the comb as quickly as possible and put it in a covered receptacle with a lid.
It is essential to point out that daylight harvesting of honey is also beneficial. By being able to see, you as a beekeeper can still harvest efficiently and control the brood nest better and detect predators and diseases.
What Do Bees Do At Night?
It shouldn’t be surprising that busy bees need some sleep as well! Honeybees sleep between five and eight hours a day. In forage bees, sleep occurs in the day and night cycles, with more rest at night when the darkness prevents them from gathering pollen and nectar.
Although a hive’s primary purpose is productivity and yield, it seems confusing why a large portion of the population wastes up to a third of the day resting. The benefits a bee gets from sleeping are tremendous.
Honey bees work all day and night and take shifts sleeping inside of their hive. Their sleeping patterns change as they grow older. Younger bees generally sleep a lot less than older bees. The older foraging bees that collect pollen have more regular sleeping patterns.
If bees do not get enough sleep, they will become sloppy and much less productive. Firstly, they will not be able to communicate correctly. They will struggle to find the direction of a profitable food source.
Sleep-deprived honeybees will struggle to return to their hive when done visiting fresh flower patches. Many bees even get lost and will never return. Further, without a good night’s sleep, honeybees will start to forget the activities that should be second nature to them.
Researchers found that older honey bees need sleep because it helps and improves their memory. Bees learn and remember things. They need to have an excellent memory to remember where to find nectar and pollen.
Then again, it is helpful to know that not all bees live in hives or have a colony. Some bees are known as solitary bees, like the teddy bear bee. They often bite into small branches and sleep there for the night. Other solitary bees will sleep in their nests or on plants.
Considering that bees also need their rest, it would be beneficial to your bees and their productivity if you do not disturb their hive every night. It would be acceptable to disturb them every once and again, but try not to make it an everyday activity for you to visit your beehives at night.
Will Bees Attack At Night?
Generally, bees are docile insects; they primarily mind their own business. They would only attack you if they feel threatened or feel that their colony is in danger. There are, however, certain situations that you need to be more vigilant than usual.
If you agitate the female workers by stepping too close to their hive, you will be attacked. You can also be stung by the queen bee if you inspect the eggs inside the colony, as the queen bee routinely stings the new developing queen bees in the darkness.
If you are taking a walk in the night and coming across the path of working bees, you will be seen as a threat and will probably be stung. This can also happen if you stray into swarming bees at night. They will feel threatened, and you can get stung by hundreds of them.
You are sure to be stung if you provoke an inspecting bee. Bees are drawn to light and will come out of their hives to inspect. If they notice you, you will get attacked.
Protecting Yourself From Bees At Night
If you have decided to open your hive at night, you should definitely know how to protect yourself from potential stinging. Following are a few tactics you can resort to:
- Make sure always to wear protective clothing with sealed-off joints. As mentioned, the startled bees will go into attack mode if they sense any danger.
- Use a bee smoker to keep your bees docile while you can calmly inspect their colonies.
- Bees will never sting you for no reason. It is crucial to remain calm at all times when handling bees, as this will prevent you from getting stung and upsetting your bees.
- It is advised to use a red-tinted flashlight when you step into a bee-invested area at night. Bees don’t see the color red and will not get disturbed by your presence.
- When using a red-tinted flashlight, be sure to never point your flashlight directly at your bees’ hives or colonies. They will get attracted to the harsh source of light and come out to attack the intruder.
- If you plan to step close to bee territory, avoid bright clothing and perfume, as the bees will be drawn to you.
- When sensing that your bees are getting hostile, you can still quickly escape at a fast pace, as bees fly very slowly.
- When laundering your bee clothes and veil, make sure that you launder them correctly. Previous stings on your gloves and clothing can leave behind a pheromone that can stimulate defensive behavior when you revisit the hive.
As a beekeeper, you probably learned a lot about opening your hive at night. It is essential to check on a new colony of bees during the night, but it is even more important to do it correctly.
Ultimately, beekeeping is a great way to help boost the population of bees. When done correctly, keeping bees helps strengthen the gene pool by adding healthy bees to the population. Bees are the primary environmental helpers.
Bees are responsible for the pollination of the majority of crops, as well as wildflowers. They also support the natural habitats for other animals and insects. By just having two hives, you can pollinate two normal-sized gardens!