What time do you get up for work? Most relatively active humans are up and about by 9am and raring to go! And, of course, most humans probably want to roll up and go to sleep in the afternoon (whilst still pretending to their boss that they are still working!!) too. We know all about the active times of humans, but what about bees? As a beekeeper, do you know when your bees are most active?
With new beekeepers entering this craft daily, this is an important question to answer. You don’t want to mess with your colonies ‘flow’ too much after all! Hopefully, this article will provide some interesting information about the secret life of bees and maybe even (hopefully) help you understand a bit more about your own honey bees.
Bees often get up for work during sunrise because that is when their habitat is still damp and when flowers have pollen that is wet. This is common for forager bees as they are the ones going out to look for pollen and nectar. Meanwhile, most of the other bees that work in the hive don’t have fixed sleeping patterns.
In case you didn’t know, there are different types of bees in a single beehive, and that is why there are some bees that tend to have different working hours compared to the others. Because forager bees can only see well when there is enough light, they are usually tirelessly working from sunrise until sundown.
Why Should I Pay Attention to my Bees Work Schedule?
Most people see a bee flying past them and don’t give it a second thought, but there’s an awful lot going on under those fuzzy little bodies that we aren’t necessarily familiar with. You don’t want to be surprised by a swarm in your apiary, so it’s good to understand and work around your bees’ ‘days off’ in order to improve your productivity. As beekeepers, this is a key part of our work!
When you understand these ‘off-peak hours’ you may stick to doing major jobs on your hives around these times, in order to minimize your impact on your bees and their cozy home. For a busy beekeeper it is not always possible, I know, but it definitely something to be aware of.
Bees have a reputation for being busy, so you might think that they are always active. Yes, they have got a lot of work to do pollinating plants and providing us with honey and beeswax, but you’ll be surprised to learn that bees actually have some downtime.
What time do bees get up?
With all that said and done, let’s get down to brass tacks! When do bees get up? Do they follow the usual working hours that we humans have, or do they have different working hours that only they follow?
As we briefly mentioned above, there are different types of bees in a single beehive, as bees (very much like humans in that office down the road) have fixed roles that they are tasked to play in their own colony. And these different bees work in different hours, depending on their roles.
So, the truth of the matter is that a bee colony will always be at work 24/7 except during the winter as they stay dormant whenever the weather is too cold for them. That means that bees are tireless workers that will always work non-stop throughout an entire 24-hour period. However, they do rest from time to time or whenever they have done what they needed to do.
As such, bees have different sleeping times depending on their roles even. Think of it as the bees following different shifts to make sure that the hive will always be at work 24/7. However, while this is common for the different worker bees inside the hive as they do not follow fixed sleeping patterns, forager bees tend to be different.
Forager bees are the ones who go out of the hive in search of pollen and nectar from different plants nearby so that they can bring this precious loot back to their hive. Unlike other bees, forager bees have fixed working hours because they need to make sure that they are working under the best conditions possible. That means that the weather must be warm enough for them and that there is enough daylight to allow them to see where they are going. So, in other words, forager bees work best whenever there is daylight.
Going back to our point, forager bees start working the moment there is enough daylight for them to forage around. This means that they usually get up to work as soon as the sun rises because they would already have enough daylight and warmth.
Also, it is during sunrise when the flowers are still damp and that the nectar and the pollen are still quite fresh. As such, the forager bees try to take advantage of this by waking up as soon as the sun rises so that they can collect pollen when it is still fresh.
What hours of the day are bees most active?
As we have discussed, bees tend to go out of their hives to work as soon as the sun rises because they will have enough daylight and warmth to work in the right conditions and because of how the pollen and nectar from the flowers are still quite fresh. But while forager bees do indeed come out almost as soon as the sun is out, what time of the day are they usually at their most active as a colony?
The time of the day that bees are at their most active tends to be early afternoon because that is when the sun has already reached its peak and is slowly starting to set. The impending doom of darkness seems to get our bee friends into a bit of a frenzy, and they are all buzzing about trying to get as much done as possible.
So although the morning hours can seem busy, most beekeepers would tell you that the early afternoon is the real deal in terms of hive activity.
Conversely, in the evening hours (sometimes as early as 4pm) you can expect bee activity to drop off quite significantly.
With this in mind, you can time your major beekeeping operations to best suit your bees.
What time of day do bees usually swarm?
If you thought that was all that you needed to worry about as a beekeeper, you would be wrong! Bring on the subject of swarms! If you have never experienced a swarm, you are in for a treat!
When we are talking about forager bees that go out of their hives to look for pollen and nectar from plants and flowers nearby, we usually see only a few of them as most foragers don’t often group together or even form a swarm. But what about the bee swarms that we often see on television? What is the purpose of that swarm and at what time of the day do bees usually swarm?
In case you haven’t seen a swarm, this is a group of bees that can easily contain thousands of different bees. And the swarm is not only composed of foragers but is composed of all the different types of bees, which may even include the queen bee herself. The reason why this is so is that swarming is how bees are able to spread out.
Swarming happens when some of the bees in a certain colony leave the hive and the colony itself, often to try to find a new place where they can build a new hive. When bees swarm, they will usually leave ‘en masse’, only leaving a fraction of the old bee population back in the old hive. Whoever is lucky or unlucky enough to be left will now choose and raise a new queen bee 🙂 This often happens when the old hive has become too small for the increasing population of the colony.
So, for those wondering when swarming happens, honey bees usually swarm during the latter part of spring and the earlier part of summer. That is when they realize that the old hive has become too small for them and that they need to find a new home as soon as possible so that they can establish the new hive before the colder season of fall begins.
And, as to the time when bees usually swarm, swarming often happens during the warmer hours of the day, such as when it is close to high noon. The reason for that is because this is when the conditions are at their best for the bees to be able to fly and see efficiently. So, if you want to avoid a bee swarm, it is best to be wary when the day is at its warmest.
What time do bees go back to the hive?
Going back to our forager bees, who work tirelessly throughout the day to find pollen and nectar for the hive, these bees may often go through multiple rounds of going back and forth from the hive to drop the raw materials and the food they have collected. If you thought DHL were efficient at multiple deliveries, you ain’t seen nothing yet 🙂
However, as to the time when they will finally return to the hive and sleep, forager bees will do so about an hour before sunset because that is when they realize that the sun is finally setting and that they need to make sure that they return to the hive while there is still daylight. My mom is a bit like this as she doesn’t like driving in the dark!
Bees do not have a sense of the exact time, but they are able to tell whether the sun is beginning to set because they make use of their infrared vision. By using their advanced eyesight and the powers it brings, these bees can tell when they need to get back to their hive. Bees have this remarkable knack of sensing even quite small changes in the surrounding light they are flying around in! When they do realize that the light is beginning to fade, that is when they need to make their way home before the day becomes too dark for them to see.
So there you have it, the full life and times of forager and worker bees. Hopefully budding beekeepers all over the globe can now pick and choose the times they are cracking open those hives!