When is the last time you heard a bee buzzing around after sundown? It wouldn’t be surprising if no memory came to mind. While bees can fly at night, you won’t usually see them out and about. We will get into a few things about what bees can and can’t do at night:
Do Bees Come Out at Night?
Yes. Some bees do come out at night, but it’s not your average bee species that do so. The species of bee you are most familiar with, bumblebees and honeybees, are classified as diurnal. Diurnal, while it sounds fancy, just refers to being awake and active during the daylight hours and inactive and resting come sundown. (Humans are also diurnal along with many other insects and mammals!)
If you’re curious if there are bees out at night, it’s not necessarily a simple answer. Let’s fly into it.
Sleepy Bees (Bees Who Sleep at Night)
When it comes to honeybees, you will not likely see these pollinators making a buzz in the evening. They tend to stay in their hive during the nighttime. Honeybees work tirelessly during the day, gathering pollen from flowers who open up in the sunshine. During the evening hours, the majority of flowers aren’t open for the bees to collect from!
Similar to honeybees, bumblebees also like to rest in the evenings after a hard day’s work. Bumblebees are known to even call it a night inside a flower! It would be highly unlikely for you to see honeybees flying around once the sun goes down.
Most forager bees don’t come out at night, but there are exceptions.
Crepuscular Bees (Who Sometimes Come Out at Night)
Crepuscular bees are a species of bees that are known to forage during the evening hours. However, these species (Apidae and genus Apis) only come out at night if there is at least a half-moon or larger that night. Giant Asian honeybee Apis dorsata and the African honeybee Apis mellifera adansonii are both species of crepuscular bees.
Research says that there is just enough light from the moon to help the bees navigate. This is why it’s imperative that there be at least a half moon to provide adequate light for these “hybrid” bees. Additionally, some bees even use their memory to help guide them against the moonlight. (That’s a pretty good memory!)
Evening Bees (Who Come Out at Night)
We will discuss the ins-and-outs of nocturnal bees in a little bit, but there are bees who come out at night regularly. The most common nocturnal bees are the Indian carpenter bee and the Megalopta sweat bee.
These nocturnal bee species are the rarity, however. These night owls have evolved over time to become the evening bees they are. If you happen to catch a bee out at night, you may have just encountered one of these uncommon nocturnal bee species!
Why Do Bees Not Fly at Night?
The vast majority of bees don’t fly at night because they simply weren’t built to do so. You could think of it like a human swimming in a dark lake or other body of water in the middle of the night. While you are capable of swimming, it is much harder to navigate and be aware of your surroundings. Not to mention, you won’t be able to see any threats of predators like you would during the daytime. (Talk about nerve-racking – it works the same for bees.)
So, why do bees not fly at night? Because they aren’t good at it, and it puts them in quite a vulnerable situation!
Wait, So Bees Can Fly at Night?
Technically, yes. Bees are capable of flying at night, but it puts most of them at risk. Most bee species are not anatomically created to fly at night, because their eyes aren’t built for nighttime. Because of their inability to see and navigate in darkness, it makes sense that most bees do not fly at night.
Another significant reason bees don’t fly at night is that the heat from the sunlight has a positive impact on their bee muscles! If the temperature gets too low, which often happens once the sun starts to set, it can seriously inhibit a bee’s ability to fly.
Can Bees See at Night?
Most bees can’t see at night, and they need light to navigate where they are going. This goes into the vulnerability of bees flying at night – they can’t see their surroundings! However, there are a few exceptions.
The bees who are nighttime flyers are the bees who can see in darkness. These night-vision eyeballs evolved for these special bees over time, and it all has to do with one, specific part of their eye – the ocelli.
The ocelli is the part of the eyeball that reflects light, and for the bees who can see at night, their ocelli is much larger compared to bees who don’t fare well in the evening. You can actually spot a slight difference if you look at a nocturnal bee versus a diurnal bee – the nocturnal bee’s eye will be slightly larger due to their enhanced ocelli.
Are Some Bees Nocturnal?
Believe it or not, there are some bees active at night. However, most bees are not nocturnal, but – as always – there are exceptions. A few species of bees exist that are completely nocturnal and can see in pitch darkness, even without the aid of moonlight.
We’ve talked about diurnal bees, now let’s discuss the bees who have evolved nocturnality.
Nocturnality: What is it?
Nocturnality is used to describe animal behavior that involves being active during the nighttime hours as opposed to daytime. Nocturnality is not often associated with bees, unless it comes to certain bee species like the Megalopta sweat bee or Indian carpenter bee who have both adapted to forage and thrive at night.
These nocturnal bees are often found in tropical regions. They are not common, but it does beg the question if there will be more of the species in the coming days. Currently, nocturnal bees only make up about 1% of the bee species population.
Advantages of Nocturnality
It only makes sense that considering there are less of this bee species, there will be less competition. Nocturnal bees will have more access when it comes to the bee “goods” like nectar and pollen. There are even some flowers that are exclusive to Indian carpenter bees.
The Heterophragma quadriloculare tree produces flowers that only bloom at night and are only pollinated by Indian carpenter bees. A rare tree for a rare bee.
How Can Bees Fly at Night?
Bees can fly at night if they have evolved to! It’s as simple as that, and it has a lot to do with how their eyes have evolved over time. There is still much research to be done on how these rare species evolved to be nocturnal, but it seems to work well for these big-eyed bees!
Can Bees Crawl at Night?
Yes, and most do if they are the diurnal species. If you encounter honeybees crawling at night, that most likely means they have been disturbed and somehow removed from their hive.
Keep in mind that crawling bees may look cute, but it is actually not a good sign if you see them crawling around your porch at night. This likely means the bee is either ill, can’t locate its hive, or has been eliminated from its colony.
Where do the bees go at night?
Where bees go at night all depends on what type of bee species they are! Honeybees go back to sleep in their hives while bumblebees are varied and even tend to sleep in flowers.
Not surprisingly, carpenter bees sleep in whatever wood they can burrow into for the evening. The crepuscular bees may be out foraging if the moon is hitting just right, and you now know the nocturnal bees are out working!
If you’re asked in trivia: “Can bees fly at night?” I hope you’ll explain that it isn’t quite a simple answer! While most bees can fly at night, they aren’t built for it.
Why bees don’t fly at night has everything to do with survival. The rare exception would be the 1% of the bee community who make up the nocturnal population or the “hybrid” bees who sometimes forage if they have adequate moonlight.
As the diurnal bees settle in for the night, they do limit their movement. They remain about as still as a human does while sleeping. Upon waking, forager bees oftentimes remain completely immobile as they slowly wake up!
Bees can be awake at night. Nocturnal and crepuscular bees are often awake throughout the night. However, some common species of bees, like honeybees and bumblebees, sleep through most of the night.