Are Bees Nocturnal? What Everyone Must Know About Bees

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When I think of bees I get an image in my head of a sunny day, a big green meadow with many flowers and those little insects swarming around from flower to flower and when it gets dark they go back to their home and go to sleep. However, is it really like this, are bees only active at daylight?

Yes, bees are nocturnal insects. However, Honeybees are not nocturnal. There are bee species that are active at night. Some of the bees gather pollen and nectar only on moon full nights; others like the Indian carpenter bee even continue to forage on the darkest moonless nights.

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Nocturnal vs Diurnal Bees

Nocturnal – active at night

Diurnal – active at day rather than at night

There are 7 different bee families in the whole world. Bee families that also have nocturnal bees are: the Colletidae, the Andrenidae, the Halictidae and the Apidae. The other 3 families are only diurnal; the Megachilidae, the Mellittidae and the Stenotritidae. For bees to navigate themselves they rely on two very important senses: their smell and their eyes. Since they rely on their eyes to recognize the nectar-rich flowers it would be logical to say that bees are diurnal creatures. However, nature has shown us that in fact there are many bee species, which are nocturnal, or some even active 24 hours. Insects, which are nocturnal, have evolved so they can see better at night and so have bees. Nocturnal bees have larger eyes and each eye contains larger numbers of ommatidia (each of the optical units that make up the compound eye of an insect).

Why have bees become nocturnal?

Two factors are considered the reason for bees to become nocturnal insects. The first is the reduced competition when gathering at night. Some flowers open up only at night, others also produce nectar at day and night and since there are not many animal species that are interested in the flowers at night bees have it all for themselves.

The second reason for which is believed they became more active at night, is concerning their health. One of the biggest enemies of insects, are parasites. If a parasite is spread throughout the bee colony, it may extinguish the whole family. Therefore, the nocturnal niche may have been an escape route.

Comparison between bee species and wasps in regards to their different abilities at night:

 HoneybeesWaspsCarpenter beesBumblebees
SeeingVery bad, especially on moonless nightsOnly a few species can see well at night, the others heavily rely on lightVery good, they are active day and nightVery bad, especially on moonless nights
HearingIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the night
SmellIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the nightIs not impaired by the night
Coordination day/nightExcellent at day/ not so good at nightVery good at day/ not so good at night, also not active at nightDay and night good coordinationGood at day/bad at night
NoiseLoud, since there are always bees awakenNot very loudNot very loud, but always activeQuiet

Do bees fly at night?

Yes, there are bee species that fly also at night, but those can mainly be found in tropical or warmer areas. If you see bees flying around your house at night, it may also be caused by your outdoor lights, which confuse the insects. Honeybees on the other hand fly only in daylight because they rely heavily on their sense to see. There are two exceptions for honey collecting bees, that can also harvest during the night, The giant Asian honey bee and the African honey bee. If there is a bright and shiny moon in the sky, those two bee species can adapt and continue their nectar and pollen collection even at night.

Can bees see in the dark?

As shown in the table above, most of the bees do not see very well at night, that is why they spent the night hours inside the hive to get some rest. However, do not make the mistake to think that all bees rest during the nightly hours and that they will not see you, there are still awaken and active bees who guard the hive and if danger is smelled, they will sting you!

Do bees buzz at night?

By beating with wings, bees create vibrations in the air that can be detected by our ears. The smaller the insect, the faster it beats its wings, the louder we hear the “buzz” sound. However, bees do not only swing their wings to fly, they also beat their wings inside the hive to keep the air flowing and to keep the air at the desired temperature. Moreover, even though honeybees are asleep at night, there are always bees that are wandering around and flattering with their wings to create the “buzz” sound.

Are bees aggressive at night?

Bees are not violent insects; in fact, they are only curious and that is why they come to you. A bee can get aggressive only if feeling attacked or when protecting its home. So yes, if you stomp upon their hive and threaten it, they will attack and sting you. If you shine a light inside the hive when it’s night, the guard bees will come to check you out and if you pose a threat, the hive becomes very noisy (that is the warning sign for you to run!). Then they all crawl out and will start searching for an entry point beneath your clothes or suit, so they can sting and eliminate the trespasser.

Do honeybees sleep at night?

Yes, honeybees do sleep at night. There are only a few bees that are awake, the ones that guard the hive and some of the nursing bees.

Are bees attracted to light at night?

It is very possible, that if the light is in the color spectrum which bees see, that their phototactic response is triggered and they come out to seek the light. If you do have such a problem in your house or property, I can suggest:

  1. Change the bulb in a color, that the bees can’t see, for example red
  2. Keep the lamp turned off for a week, that will make them stop immediately
  3. If the bees still continue to show up, after processing the first two steps, I would recommend to call a specialist to remove the beehive from your property

When are bees most active and when inactive?

Bees tend to be very active from the moment where the sun provides light until one hour prior to sunrise. However, if in the morning if the pollen is wet, they tend to wait it out to dry. Also if the temperature is too hot or too cold, they stay inside the hive. They are also not active during rainy days, snow or when the temperature is below 50 degrees f.


Hey there, I'm Jan! Bees are my passion since I was a little kiddo. My grandpa always said that passing knowledge to new people is the most honorable and meaningful thing to do. So here I am, passing my knowledge to you. Protect the bee, respect the bee!

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