Do Bees Fly At Night?

Our wonderful bees are very hardworking and might work anywhere from only a few hours a day until 12 hours. It all depends on their role inside of the hive. If you’re a beekeeper like myself, you may notice that your bees seem to have endless energy! Do bees fly at night, and can they see in the dark?

Most bees, including the very popular honeybee and bumblebee, do not fly at night. Bees are diurnal insects, and they only fly and collect pollen during the daytime. Bees can crawl at night, and they could fly at night if they needed to, but they prefer not to, as they can not see well in the dark.

Bees are some of the most hardworking insects you will ever meet, and it is a privilege to be a beekeeper. Continue reading as I discuss exactly what our stinger friends do at night and whether some of them have evolved enough to fly at night!

What Do Bees Do At Night?

Whether a bee will fly during the night will mainly depend on the amount of light available, as well as the type of species they are.

Sometimes, there may be enough light under a full moon for them to fly and find their way around their hive.

If this is the condition, you may notice that your regular diurnal bees might still fly around the hive. However, on a typical night, most species of bees can be found safe and sound in their hives.

Bees usually return one by one to their hives shortly after the sun has set. By this point, the light will almost be too dim to allow them to continue navigating properly.

Interestingly enough, though, scientists have studied nocturnal bees to determine whether they had evolved enough to have the ability to see and fly around in the dark.

Objects were moved around as well as specific landmarks. When they did this, they determined that the bees were unable to find their way back to their hives.

This indicates that bees navigate based on their memories rather than relying on their eyesight. When bees return to their hive, they tend to go dormant.

This allows your bees to conserve all their energy, as their tiny bodies relax completely. The more fast asleep they become, the more their bodies relax, building up energy for the next day of foraging.

The one type of bee that doesn’t follow this usual pattern is the queen bee. When the queen bee lays her eggs, she will work all day and all night. When the queen is not laying, she will also go dormant.

Can Bees See In The Dark?

Most bee species, including bumblebees and honey bees, are almost completely blind at night, and therefore, they reserve the light of day to engage in their foraging activities.

While your bees are foraging, they will use their ultraviolet vision to look for nectar guides, which assist them in pinpointing all the flowers with the best and richest source of nectar.

Most bees’ vision is significantly reduced during the night, and it could be next to impossible for them to find their way around.

Therefore, they spend the night in their hives or shelter, resting from all the tiresome activities they engaged in during the day.

Most bees have an increased risk of being preyed on by nocturnal predators if they go flying out in the dark, so they remain safely in their hives.

However, this does not mean that your bees will not fly out at night to attack threats or intruders to their colony, even if it’s pitch black.

Usually, guard bees will stay awake during the night, standing at the hive’s entrance. They will alert the sleeping colony when they notice any signs of intruders or predators.

A few bee species have been known to have the ability to forage at night, but there has to be some sort of light present.

These bees’ eyes have evolved into seeing during the nighttime, and they are even able to find nectar-rich flowers.

Most bees usually return to their hives once they notice the daylight is fading, as it will become more and more difficult for them to navigate the path back to their hive.

Apart from bees having to use the sun to navigate their way correctly, they are believed to have mental maps in their brains, in which the settings of the area they live in are firmly imprinted.

This then helps them to be able to find their way home after a long and challenging day of foraging.

After foraging for an entire day, some bees could be too tired and might get lost on their way home, so they would often rather sleep where they are and return to their hives in the morning.

Some Bees Do Have Night Vision

Whether or not a bee can see at night will depend on its species. Bees can be split into three main categories, which include:

Diurnal Bees

Diurnal bees will be active only during the daytime. When the light becomes too dim, these bees will return to the safety of their hives.

Crepuscular Bees

Crepuscular bees will need brighter skies that are present during dusk and dawn. These bees will only come out at these two times. As a result, these bees spend most of their time in the hives.

Nocturnal Bees

Nocturnal bees are the bee species in this category known as night foragers. They will only come out when it is entirely dark.

The vast majority of bee species will be diurnal. However, there are a handful of bees that are crepuscular as well as nocturnal. These bees are usually only found in the tropical parts of the world.

Why Are Some Bees Crepuscular Or Nocturnal?

There are several reasons why some species of bees are crepuscular and nocturnal, while most are not. These reasons include:

  • Protecting themselves from predators.

Most predators will expect bees to be active during the day. If the bees head out to forage during the night instead, they won’t attract any attention to themselves, thus staying safe from any predators.

  • Less competition.

During the day, bees need to be content with other pollinators. This could become a problem, which can possibly result in fighting to try to obtain enough nectar.

This pressure gets significantly reduced at night, allowing these bees to calmly and quickly forage and get the nectar they need without any competition.

  • Lack of water resources.

When bees are flying during the day, it causes them to lose water much faster. This could become a problem in more arid locations, so they also spend the night looking for water.

  • Some flowers open at night.

Some types of flowers can only open during the nighttime. If bees are not flying during the night, they will be unable to gather nectar from these flowers. This is more common in tropical environments.

Which Bees Are Active At Night?

Crepuscular and nocturnal activity in bees has gotten more and more noticeably, and on several occasions, in at least four of the seven recognizable families of bees.

These bees are known as the Colletidae, the Apidae, the Halictidae, and the Andrenidae. Most of these species are subtropical or tropical, but many of them can also be found at some of the higher latitudes.

Only one species of bees are known to be obligately nocturnal. This is the giant Indian carpenter bee, which is a bee capable of foraging, even on the darkest nights without any light from the moon.

The well-studied sweat bee from Central America, Megalopta genalis, which is also known as the Halictidae, is crepuscular. This bee is known to be very active under the canopy of the thick rainforest during two short windows of time, which are shortly before dawn and after dusk.

The other two species of honeybees, which are Apidae, and Apis, are known to be crepuscular and forage throughout the night if a moon is half-full or larger.

Can Bees Sting At Night?

If you are now wondering whether you can work with your bees at night and if they will sting you, you may find the following information very enlightening. If you ask this question to beekeepers, you may get some different answers.

Many beekeepers believe that bees will not sting as much when it’s dark and late at night. However, in most cases, this is just a misconception. Not many people inspect or work with their bees at night.

Many beekeepers, including myself, prefer to stay away from the beehives when it’s dark. However, how docile your bees are during the night may depend on their temperament, which is different for each hive.

The truth is, your honeybees can do whatever they wish, and this includes stinging at night. Of course, not many beekeepers have gotten stung by their bees after dark because they are in their homes, just like the bees!

However, if you have a beehive and you have to examine or work with it at night, you can already know that your bees will not think twice about defending their home. They can become aggressive, seeing you as a predator.

If the temperatures are low enough, there is a big possibility that the bees will remain inside their hives, even if you are working around it.

In the case of low temperatures, the bees will not come out and sting you, even if it is pitch dark and they don’t know what’s going on.

The queen bee can also sting you in the dark. Never make the assumption that your bees will not sting you if you happen to have to work with the hives when it’s late at night.

Also, it might be good to keep in mind that most of the bees in the colony will be in the hive, which may make things more challenging.

 There are, however, ways you can keep yourself safe from your bees if you have to work with them at night. You have to make sure you are well prepared.

It will benefit you greatly if you have a game plan, think ahead, and have everything ready before you head out to the hives at night.

Below are a few tips that could make all the difference:

  • Always wear proper protective clothing.

Bees can still attack their beekeepers if they feel their lives are in danger. There is also a very good chance that some bees will try to crawl into your bee suit, which results in you running the risk of getting stung. You need to make sure you are covered at all times. You can use duct tape to seal off any loose clothing if it is necessary.

  • Use your bee smoker.

Using a bee smoker will help to keep your bees more docile.

  • Use a headlamp with a red tint.

Bees are unable to see red. Using a red-tinted headlamp makes your bees less likely to attack you and will hardly notice the light.

The one thing a lot of beekeepers do not realize is that there will almost be the most bees in the beehive during the night. Bees always return to their hives when the sun sets, and the more bees there are, the more likely you as the beekeeper are to get stung.

Another thing that would be good to consider is that your bees will always fly towards any strong sources of light at night. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the bees will always attack the light source, as they think it is a threat or a honey robber.

So, if you decide to go near your hives at night, never directly point your flashlight at them. However, you can also cover your normal flashlight with a red-colored film or filter. Your bees won’t react to the light in an aggressive way, as they are unable to see the color red.

Conclusion

Now that you know that your honey bees can’t fly at night, you can rest assured that you won’t find any stray bees. However, if you are located in a tropical or sub-tropical environment, there is a chance of nocturnal bees, and you may notice them buzzing about!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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