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What Bees Live In The Ground – Bees & Beekeeping Information

what bees live in the ground

Though many of you will associate bees with hives filled with honey, a majority of the thousands of bee species live in the ground. Despite the cultural and historical associations we have of bees and honey, the honey bees represent a relatively small section of the over 20,000 species of bee. The bees that live in the ground are mostly solitary, unlike the large colonies of European honey bee, Apis mellifera, which can reach numbers as high as 60,000 members. If you find yourself asking the question of what bees live in the ground, you might find your answer by turning to your backyard or garden, where you may be surprised to find several species of these bees already living there.

You might have mistaken these ground-nesting bees for honey bees. There are many species of bees building nests under the ground in North America. They are excellent pollinators and may, in fact, be doing your garden a world of good.

Unlike honey bees, whose colonies feature large numbers of workers and drones all contributing to the benefit of queen and colony, the ground nest or miner bees do not exist in large colonies. In many of these species, the queen lives in her nest with her offspring, while in other species the males patrol the queen's nest to protect her, though even these species are considered docile in comparison to other bee types. You should also know which bees bite and which species watch out for. 

a bee

What Bees Live In The Ground

What bees live in the ground, and what bees live? There are many species of ground-nesting or miner bee in North America alone, forming an interesting subject for the entomologist, behavioral biologist, or gardener. The spring time will herald the return of these species, which play an active role in pollinating flowers by extracting pollen and nectar. These bees are generally solitary, their queens living in underground galleries with their young. It is not uncommon for queens to form nests nearby to other queens, but more on this later.

In terms of what bees live in the ground, as we have mentioned, there are several genera common in the United States. Of these, Colletes, Lasioglossum, Halictus, Agapostemon, and Andrena are significant, with Colletes inequalisin particular being abundant in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States.

The species within these genera form recognizable nests, piles of dirt with holes in the center about one-quarter of an inch wide, though it is important to distinguish these nests from yellow jacket nests. These latter insects are very different from the solitary bees, which are regarded as harmless. Though many gardeners may see bees and wasps as pests, the solitary bees are unlikely to sting unless greatly provoked, and entomologists recommend avoiding pesticide use with these creatures.

Some significant families of ground-nesting bees are listed below (these families include several of the genera already mentioned above):

  • Andrenidae (miner bees)
  • Anthoporidae (digger bees)
  • Halictidae (sweat bees)

Of course, now that we have a better idea of what bees live in the ground, the next logical question is, do these bees sting? Just like honey bees and bumble bees, the male ground bees are not capable of stinging. The females do sting though, again, they are not considered aggressive and generally will only sting if handled, so it's probably not a good idea to try and pick them up. In some species, the males may seem aggressive, but they lack stingers, and their behavior is essentially posturing.

Sweat bees, bees that are in the family Halictidae, have a behavior that may alarm some: they land on the skin and feed on human sweat, but this does not necessarily mean a sting. Whether or not they sting you has more to do with you then with the sweat bee, so though you may be surprised at finding one of these insects suddenly on an arm or a leg, you should not swat them away. Doing this will be regarded by the bees as an aggressive act on your part and may result in a sting.

solitary bees are what bees live in the ground

What Are Solitary Bees

Many of the bees that live in the ground fall under the solitary bee category, though not all of them do. Bumblebees, in the genus Bombus, also form nests in the ground, though they are not solitary, living as they do in colonies that can reach several hundred members. Though they are not quite flying solo, bumble bees are more solitary than their more famous relatives, the honey bees, which utilize signaling mechanisms to alert workers to the best flowers to pollinate.

Though the bumblebee is not a solitary bee, it has some behaviors in common with the solitary bee species, pollinating flowers diligently and alone. Bumblebees are also regarded as less aggressive than the more social bees that live in huge, complex colonies. Perhaps the best way to examine the solitary bees and their habits is to hone in on one species to study. Colletes inaequalis, a solitary ground-nesting bee that closely resembles Apis mellifera is a good choice for study.

You may have queens of this species in your backyard without knowing it. Like other solitary bees, Colletes inaequalis queens build galleries in the ground where they birth their brood, and it is common for as many as thousands of these queens to build nests in close proximity to each other. Most ground-nesting bees have a strong preference for dry, sandy soils, so an easy way to prevent them from nesting is to water the soil regularly with a sprinkler, but as the bees are benign, this may not be necessary.

Although Colletes inaequalis queens burrow nests and rear their young alone, a common activity in the springtime is for males to look for queens to mate with. In spite of this increased activity in your backyard or garden, the males do not have a sting. As with other ground-nesting bees, the Colletes inaequalis queens form recognizable mounds, so it should be easy to tell if they are present in your backyard.

a solitary bee on a yellow petal

the benefits of solitary bees

Like many other insects, bees can be very beneficial to humans and other mammalian species in the neighborhood, to say nothing about the flora. Besides the obvious example of the honey bee, whose winter stores of food the beekeeper takes and sells (or uses) for honey, bees have much to offer us. Bees are amazing pollinators, even being essential to maintain introduced plant species in some parts of the world, and the solitary bees are no exception.

The ground-nesting bees, Colletes inaequalis in particular, are significant pollinators of flowering trees and plants, like apple trees, cherry trees, and blueberries. Again, bees and other flying insects play a major role in allowing these flowering species to thrive, so it is detrimental not only to the ecosystem but to the human exploiting the ecosystem to use pesticides in cultivated areas in order to remove bees and other insects from the area.

This role in pollination that the solitary bees serve is not only beneficial for commercial crops, like apples, but also for ornamental plants, like the flowering plants that you have in your garden. With all the work you put into creating a serene, admiral physical space filled with flowers, using pesticides to remove insects is not only unnecessary but likely detrimental to the flowering plants that you have cultivated.

Entomologists and other scientists familiar with solitary bees make it clear that pesticides are inadvisable, at least in terms of backyards and gardens. If you really need to deter ground bees from nesting in your backyard or garden, you can either water the areas of ground where these bees have already formed nests, or if the bees have not yet formed nests, use a sprinkler to keep the area wet, which will encourage the ground bees to nest elsewhere.

Conclusion – What Bees Live in the Ground?

The benefits of bees are numerous, from providing us with honey for our table to pollinating many of the plants, trees, and flowers that have become essential to sustaining human life on earth. Though solitary bees are different from the more familiar honey bee, and may be regarded by some as less useful and more of a pest, these species are very numerous and, as such, play a significant role in pollination and, by extension, ecosystem maintenance.

In terms of what bees live in the ground, there are thousands, with two-thirds of all bee species being considered ground bees. There are many species in North America, with one of the more common being Colletes inaequalis, which resembles the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. An important fact to remember about ground-nesting bees is that they are mostly solitary, the bumblebee is a notable exception, and as solitary bees, they are considered more docile than other bees.

Though one may be tempted to use pesticides to remove the characteristic dirt mound nests that the ground-nesting bees live in, this is inadvisable as these bees are so beneficial to the ecosystem and essentially harmless that it is probably a better idea to just let them bee. At most, a sprinkler to keep the area of concern watered should be able to do the trick.

When Does Bee Balm Bloom – Bees & Beekeeping Information

when does bee balm bloom

Bee balm is a very useful perennial plant, meaning it grows back year after year. It is native to North America and thrives in woodland areas. However, it can also grow very well in meadows, flower beds or pots. Its leaves are delicious in salads and teas, can be used to make a bath bomb and is host to a multitude of medicinal qualities. With all these positive attributes, you may be wondering when does bee balm bloom? Before we get into that, let's dive a little deeper into the history of bee balm and why you may want it in your garden.

What is Bee Balm?

Bee balm is a common name for Monarda, a popular, perennial plant native to the eastern United States. These colorful plants grow to be two to four feet tall although there are dwarf varieties that reach only ten inches or less. Be cautious if you purchase a white, purple or pink flower as you may find it to be red next year. It has a tendency to revert back to its natural color after time.

Bee balm has long been used for medicinal purposes by Native American tribes, the Shakers, the American Eclectic physicians, and herbalists. Other names for this plant include Oswego and wild bergamot. English settlers chose to make their tea out of this plant after they lost access to English teas following the Boston Tea Party.

Bee balm is commonly planted in bee and butterfly gardens to attract bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinating insects. It is also used to attract predatory insects to prey on the insects that eat the plants in your garden.

Although it tolerates drought, try your best to water it and feed it fertilizer once a week or every other week during the blooming season which is at its peak during the summer.

Why is Bee Balm Significant?

Bee balm is good for both plants and animals including humans. Let's discuss.

Bee balm is good for plants. It attracts natural pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other insects. In addition, it attracts predatory insects that eat herbivorous insects. This means, not only will your plants propagate but you will no longer have insects and parasites eating the plants that you have managed to grow already.

bloomed bee balm

As mentioned previously, bee balm is used by many segments of the population for medicinal purposes. But what do these include? And how do you get these healing properties?

  • Bee balm acts as a natural mosquito repellant if you rub it on your skin. Be careful to test a small patch of skin, however. Some individuals find it makes them very sensitive to the sun. While the scent itself repels mosquitos, it works best if the leaves are crushed to release the aromatics.
  • Make bee balm iced tea for nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and a host of other gastrointestinal issues. As a member of the mint family, it can be ingested safely. Avoid if you are pregnant and be wary if you have thyroid issues.
  • Bee balm is visually stunning. Put the leaves in a salad or use the petals to decorate a cake.
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    Make a tonic using one cup of bee balm leaves and flowers and one and a half liters of water, and boiling them for ten minutes. Once cool, you can use it as a spritz or splash on itchy, dry or sunburned skin or you can add it to your bath.
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    Soak a cloth in bee balm tea to make a compress. It has fungicidal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
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    Put fresh tea leaves in a cheesecloth or linen and tie into a bag. Keep under hot water as you are drawing your bath for effective aromatherapy. This will help relieve your cold symptoms, sore throat, fever and congestion.

But when does bee balm bloom?

When Does Bee Balm Bloom?

Now that you know the significance of bee balm, you may be wondering, when does bee balm bloom? If you are looking to plant bee balm seeds, do so in the spring two weeks before the last frost. If you have already missed your chance, plant the seeds in late summer two months before the first frost. It takes a week to 10 days usually for your flowers to appear.

a bee approaching a flower

Other Common Questions

How Far Apart Should I Plant my Seeds?

Now that you know the answer to the question "when does bee balm bloom," you might be thinking about growing it. When planing bee balm, plant the seeds one foot apart. These plants do not grow well when overcrowded and since they get to be up to four feet tall, it is important to give the plants coming up space to breathe. You may want to plant them 18 to 24 inches apart if you are planting them in a field or meadow where you have more space.

You may not need as much space for dwarf varieties of this flower that grow less than ten inches tall. These are better for planting in containers or in the front of your flower border so you can appreciate all of your other flowers.

Plant your seeds in moist, well-fertilized soil with a pH balance of between 6.0 to 6.7. While they grow better in moist environments, be sure the soil is sufficiently drained in the winter.

What Climate Can I Grow Bee Balm In?

Bee balm is very forgiving when it comes to the climate it can survive in. Although it thrives in moist, rich soil in a sunny location, it is hardy and will still grow in the shade, particularly in areas with hot summers. Being a member of the mint family, these plants are so hardy; you may have trouble keeping them from overtaking your garden.

Once the Flower Blooms, How Can I Care for It?

Keep the soil moist. When watering the plant, water only the soil. Do not water the leaves. Work a good, multi-purpose fertilizer into the soil around the plant.

If you want a bushier plant, cut the stem tips as they grow in during the spring. In the late fall, cut the plant down to only a few inches tall. Depending on how cold the winter is, they may die all the way to the ground. However, they will reappear during the next spring.

This plant is highly susceptible to powdery mildew. You will be able to recognize it as a gray, powdery substance on the leaves and buds in cool, moist weather, like in the Pacific Northwest. To treat this, spray fungicide from your local garden center. Always water from the ground and not overhead. You can also prevent powdery mildew by ensuring proper spacing of the plant (seeds about one foot apart), which allows for satisfactory air circulation.

a bloomed bee balm - when does bee balm bloom

What Else Should I Know?

As an extremely hardy member of the mint family, you may have issues with this plant beginning to overtake your garden. However, if you are trying to propagate it without buying more seeds, pick flowers frequently. This will strongly encourage growth. Furthermore, removing spent flowers, or deadheading, will help promote a new flush of blooming buds.

If you buy flowers of a certain color, be aware that these plants typically revert back to their natural color, so next year you may have a different color flower in its place.

Conclusion - When Does Bee Balm Bloom?

You now know the answer to the question "when does bee balm bloom." It also has various uses. Bee balm is a tall, visually stunning, perennial plant that is a must in many types of gardens. Some gardeners may want it to attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to pollinate the rest of their flowers. Other gardeners may want it to block off sections of different flowers.

You may want it to attract carnivorous insects to eat herbivorous insects feeding on your plants or repel mosquitos. Native Americans, homeopathic physicians, and others have been using this plant to treat a whole host of ailments including menstrual cramps, fungal infection, nausea, heartburn and indigestion. Its antibacterial properties also help you prevent getting sick or getting even sicker if you did happen to catch something.

Whatever your reason for planting bee balm in your garden, even if it is just for its beauty, be sure to take good care of these plants. They are very resilient and will grow in suboptimum conditions, but you may need to look out for powdery mildew and treat it. You can help avoid this by watering the plant from the ground rather than overhead and watering the leaves.

Look out for a gray powder and remove any infected parts of the plant. They will grow back, but this will prevent the rest of the plant from getting sick and possibly dying. Mildew can also be prevented by planting your seeds far enough apart, about one foot of separation, for the height of your plant. You can also spray fungicide from your local gardening store.

Whether you are planting seeds or whole plants you bought already grown from the store, do it in the spring or summer. If you do it when it is too cold, the plants will either not grow or die.

Can Bees Fly At Night – Bees & Beekeeping Information

Can Bees Fly At Night

Watching bees fly between plants and flowers during sunny days is a common refrain of warmer months. In fact, for many, bees signals the blooming season and it is a comforting sign that cold weather done for a while.

The presence of bees buzzing about also signals the growing season as the activity of bees helps food crops to grow. However, what is less common is seeing bees moving about during darker hours. It almost seems as if the minute it gets dark outside, the bees disappear. This begs the question: can bees fly at night?

The answer to this question is more complex than acknowledging the physiological capability of bees to move at night. It also deals with the nocturnal habits of bees, or lack thereof. There are reasons bees operate primarily during the daylight hours and understanding those reasons perpetuates knowledge of the contribution bees made to the larger global ecosystem.

Nighttime Habits of Bees

Unlike many insect species, bees do not have active nighttime schedules. Bees operate on a human-like schedule. They are more active during the daytime hours and retreat to the hive at night. They fly back when the sun sets, to ensure that they won't lose their way trying to make it home.

When bees go back to the hive after a busy day of collecting nectar and pollen, they cluster in with their fellow bees and settle down to sleep for the night. This makes for more traffic and competition during the day to get to the nectar and pollen before other bees.

However, this makes more sense since bees can then use the sunlight to see where they are going. Some flowers that bees frequent close in total darkness, limiting the access the bees may have to their nectar. This is less likely to be an issue in the brightness of daylight.

Bees sleep daily, getting between five and eight hours of shut-eye in a 24-hour period. Bee sleep happens primarily at night when the hive calms. However, many bees also catch naps during the day. Bees that don't make it home before the sun sets completely rarely risk flying at night even though they can do so. If there is a closed flower available, this makes for a cozy bed until the sun comes up to provide light in the morning.

Bees depend on sleep to enhance their memory. Because foragers need to remember where they are going the next day, the sleep allows them to rest so that their memories are sharp the next day. Bees that have not had enough sleep won't remember where to go the next day, making it hard to locate any food sources located the day prior.

Can Bees Fly At Night?

Bees can physically fly in the dark. There is nothing about these insects--from a physiological perspective--that prohibits their ability to fly when it is dark. This is the case with any insect. Most animals and insects are less active at night--except for those that are biologically nocturnal--because it is safer and because this is the time at which they generate and conserve energy for the next day.

Also, like any other insect or animal, bees will fly at night they absolutely have to do so. For example, if there is a danger, bees won't sleep through it. If there is a reason that bees must leave or abandon the hive, they will fly at night to do so, particularly if this means that flying protects the queen. Bees leaving the hive collectively characterizes as swarming. It is not a behavior seen at night, but bees will undergo such a journey if it is imperative.

Can Bees Fly At Night

Bees prefer not to fly under the cover of darkness as it becomes that much harder to find their way effectively. However, while bees do not enjoy flying at night, they can do so from a physical perspective.

The reason that bees can fly at night but choose not to is simple: they can easily get lost and become prey for cunning nighttime predators. The more bees that are flying at night away from the hive, the less the numbers of bees there are protecting the hive and ultimately--the queen.

Foragers are more prepared to fly at night than their worker counterparts. Since those out foraging for nectar and pollen come in last, they linger on the fringes of the hive. This means that in a night-time attack, these frequent fliers would be the first line of defense. Those that stay inside the hive much of the time sleep closer to the middle.

Different hives have different sleeping patterns. Some hives are more likely to sleep longer hours or through the night than others. There is no scientific explanation for these differences; it may be as simple as some differences between humans in terms of personality or habit.

There may be hives that have guards that show bees can fly at night as they buzz around just inside the hive or close to the outside.

Light attracts bee during the nighttime hours, but not because other insects and animals may be. Bees don't think of the light as a food source as is what commonly draws out other insects. Rather, bees are constantly seeking heat sources. Thus, during the colder months, bees can fly at night and rarely may do so to glean heat from the light source.

Daytime Significance

Can Bees Fly At Night

Among the reasons that bees can fly at night, but do so during the day, centers on their daytime activities. Bees have a huge ecological responsibility. Their propensity to pollinate various plants and flowers plays a big role in agricultural success for many human food crops.

Without the bees' daytime schedule, flowers and plants would not bloom and thrive as effectively. The food crops for which bees help to pollinate are diverse and include everything from apples to mangoes.

Bees also work during the daytime hours to create honey, placing it in the honeycombs of the hive to save for winter. Honey is a human food mainstay, so it is important that bees stick to their natural schedules to be productive in creating it.

Honey not only tastes good to humans, but there are also many health benefits related to the consumption of honey--including the fact it is such a poignant antioxidant. Raw honey also contains actual bee pollen, so it has disease-fighting properties.

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Drawbacks Of Flying At Night

While the answer to "Can bees fly at night?" is a resounding yes, the more complex answer is that they can, but they should not do so. While bees may not sleep as many hours at other species in the animal kingdom, these insects rely on the sleep they get. If a bee can fly at night, then this means it is forgoing much-needed sleep to prepare for the next day.

Tired, loopy bees are not themselves, and it shows to the rest of the hive. They may not communicate properly with other foragers, they may not be as productive in gathering pollen or nectar that day, or they may easily forget where they are going and how they plan to get home again.

In this way, bees are very similar to humans. If they don't get enough sleep, they get more confused. Bees can fly at night, but if they are tired, they are more likely to get lost. Thus, many bees won't risk it and will sleep where they are before flying again.

Can bees fly at night if they don't have good night vision? They can, but they don't do it well. This is another reason that bees prefer to get where they are going while the sun is still setting instead of flying in complete darkness.

If they can't see where they are flying, they may inadvertently put themselves in danger. There are plenty of other insects that would love to make a snack out of a wayward bee. If a lone bee runs into a wasp or flies near a wasp nest, the chances of being killed.

Bees On Guard At Night

Bees sleep at night, but there are always members of the hive that stay awake at various points to ensure the safety of the hive. Bees stand ready to defend their queen at all times, so bees can and will fly at night in attack mode to protect the hive. This also speaks to the notion of "can bees fly at night," as it shows that they can but only when they prefer to do so.

Our Final Thoughts

"Can bees fly at night" is a viable question and the short answer is: yes. However, should bees fly at night is a different question, and the answer is a definitive "no." Bees have an inherent understanding of the risks incurred by flying in darkness. While it may offer cover to these small insects, the risk of getting lost or encountering a more dangerous foe is too great. Bees find shelter in places when it gets dark, or do what it takes to get back to the hive before darkness falls completely.

Are Bees Attracted To Light – Bees & Beekeeping Information

bees in the field of flowers

When sitting on your front porch, especially on a warm summer day, you may notice that when the light goes on, the insects begin to swarm around the light. Are bees in the mix? Are bees attracted to light? Read on to find out more.

While we mainly see bees during the day, whether or not they are attracted to lights like other insects is an interesting question. Read on for an answer to the question: are bees attracted to light? As we'll see, they are, generally to a much larger light than moths could ever imagine, but sometimes to man-made sources.

Are Bees Attracted to Light?

bee in sunlight with flowers

So, are bees attracted to light? To frame the question, we must first establish the activities of bees. You've seen them on many sunny spring and summer days, buzzing about the flower tops doing their job, pollinating plants and spreading life. In general, bees are active during the day, and return to, and stay within their hives at night. Thus, barring outside interruptions or artificial sources, bees will generally be drawn to the sun and awake during the day, and retreat to the hive at night.

The traditional behavior of bees in the modern environment has been affected by man-made technology. While in the times prior to electricity the bee would rise and sleep with the rising and setting of the sun, artificial light and the spread of humanity has illuminated the darkness. Nighttime is no longer largely darkness beyond moonlight, and the occasional dwelling; it is urban and heavily populated, electricity blazing into the night sky.

The Positive Phototactic Reaction

bee in a spring flower

Bees are drawn to bright light, naturally the sun. In the modern world, bright lights also emanate from flame-driven lanterns into the realm of modern technology. The porch light mentioned above is a bright light that may attract and ultimately lead to the demise of a great many moths and small insects. This is due to the "positive phototactic" reaction of the moth, and bees share in this.

The "positive phototactic" reaction is a process called "Phototaxis." When bright lights are encountered, the reaction is activated, and the creature is drawn towards the light for further inspection. The distance of the sun makes it practically impossible to reach, and thus attention remains upon the earth and its vegetation, but artificial light can be reached, and thus the attempt is made. The attraction of bees to lights, like moths, can lead to a pile-up of dead bees on your front porch. The next time you sweep them up, look at their species and take a moment to consider.

Carpenter Bees And Deep Sleeping

carpenter bee

The carpenter bee is present in the lower 40 states of America, and are commonly seen buzzing about during the day. At night, they return to the holes they've bore into wood to sleep. At night, the bees are not attracted to light and remain dormant until the following morning, and the sunrise. This particular type of bee is notorious for its sheen black back and fuzzy yellow top, noticeable as they forage for food atop flowers.

European Hornets And Wasps

bee in a flower nectar with sun rays

One insect often mistaken for a bee that is in fact attracted to light, is the European hornet. The European hornet is particularly large, and is mostly yellow. However, it looks quite different than a carpenter bee.  Due to the yellow patterning, it is often mistaken for a bee. The size of the European hornet, however, is a giveaway, as they are 1-inch-long wasps, and have reddish or brown heads, and yellow stripes across their lower abdomen.

European hornets are active at night in the presence of light, and can be a threat due to their painful stings. Brown wasps with similar builds may also be drawn to artificial lights, and have similarly painful stings. If there are many present, consult with a pest control expert to assess the situation and if necessary locate the hive and control for it.

Parasitic Flies And Bee Control


As noted above, bees are largely dormant at night, as the prime time for harvesting pollen is during the day when flowers are open and accessible. If you notice a large number of dead honeybees or bumblebees by your porch light, and there is not a hive entrance nearby they would normally be headed towards and thus distracted by the light, they may be infested by parasites.

Honeybees and bumblebees are susceptible to the Apocephalus borealis fly, which is a tiny, native, humpbacked fly that lays an egg directly inside the unsuspecting bee. When the egg within the bee hatches, the larva, also known as a maggot, eats the bee from the inside out. Upon being infected by a fly parasite, the bee abandons its hive during the night, and dies soon thereafter

There is a way to test if there are parasitic flies in your area and can provide an interesting basic experiment. Begin by collecting some of the dead bees and placing them in a plastic bag, sealing it. Should maggots or pupae emerge in the bag one or two days later, the bees in your area have a parasite problem, and if you are a beekeeper, this is something to pursue a solution to for the sake of your bees.

Africanized Honeybees And Daytime Swarming

bees in a blossom flower

The Africanized honeybee, the Apis mellifera, is a hybrid of European and African honeybees. Each year they swarm up to 15 times in order to establish new colonies, while the European honeybee does this just once annually. This particular bee is sensitive to artificial light to the point of death.

If you notice a number of bees that you identify as Africanized honeybees, it is likely there is a hive present. Should a light be in the sight path of one of these bees as it is returning to its hive, it will fly into the light repeatedly and may die beneath it. Their hives are found by looking for pencil-sized holes in wood, which would be in the vicinity of the light beneath which you are finding their bodies.

Africanized honeybees are especially protective of their hives and territorial. Given this, the bees can be more of a threat than others. If you find evidence of a hive in your home, or another wooden structure on your property like houses, sheds, or even trees, contact a professional exterminator. For the sake of safety, leave removal to someone with experience removing the insects.

Sweat Bees And Night Flowers

sweat bee

There are nocturnal varieties of bees as well that are known to feed at night, and may thus be attracted to artificial light that is present. Some species of bees known as sweat bees, or Halictidae, feed exclusively on night-blooming flowers at dusk or dawn, or on moonlit nights the flowers remain bloomed and open for feeding.

Sweat bees are uniquely colored and easy to identify. As opposed to the traditional yellow, sweat bees are mostly dark-colored. Some species are metallic green while others are purple. Are bees attracted to light? Sweat bees are, in fact, porch lights are known to be capable of encouraging sweat bees from their nests. The intensity of the artificial light may affect this, so you could try lowering the intensity of the lights to decrease attraction while figuring out where the hive is.

A study published in "Behavioral Ecology" led by scientist Almut Kelber noted that artificial light caused the Halictidae species of bees to leave their hives earlier than dawn, before the time they would normally arise to forage and feed. Mining bees, yellow-faced bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, honeybees, and bumblebees all exhibit some form of nocturnal behavior.


Many species of bees are normally active during the day and slumber in their hives or nests at night. This is due to their feeding upon flowers, which generally open themselves to the sun during the day. There are however night flowers, and to provide for their pollination, a number of species of bees that are also active in the darker hours. Whatever the type of bee, or even wasp, artificial light can have an impact on their behavior.

Artificial light has been shown to awaken some bees earlier than their normal cycle would prefer, while others are drawn into the light to the point of killing themselves. If there is a dead bee pile-up beneath your porch light, consider setting it to a timer to shut off a few hours before dawn long after you've gone to sleep, to allow the bees a normal slumber and to reduce their buildup on your porch.

Bees are drawn to the sun, and some are drawn to artificial light, particularly if they feed on night flowers. Bees are essential to our environment and ecology, but they can also pose a threat to human life. If you find yourself with an excess of dead bees beneath your lights, a hive is likely nearby. For your safety bring in a professional to determine where the hive is, and whether or not it presents a threat.

How Bees Communicate – Bees & Beekeeping Information

How bees communicate - Domesticated honeybees returning to their apiary

Bees are part of the Hymenoptera Order. Other than bees, animals in the Hymenoptera Order include wasps, sawflies, and ants. The insects within this order tend to have rather strict social structures. The way they communicate within their communities is very sophisticated. When speaking about the types of communication used by bees, it is important to acknowledge scientific research dealing with bee communication has mainly been limited to honeybees, more specifically, western honeybees. When we discuss how bees communicate that is the particular species we are addressing.

One reason bee communication research is limited is due to the fact there are over 20 thousand bee species. Also, we have greater access to Western honeybees since they are a highly domesticated species and are the most widely farmed bee species. Before we delve into Western honeybee communication, let’s familiarize ourselves with bees in general.

All About Bees & Bee Colonies

As we mentioned before, there are about 20 thousand known bee species, and countless others not yet discovered. Bees are classified into seven families and can be found everywhere on the planet, except Antarctica. If there are plants dependent on insect pollination, you will find bees. Their main job is assisting the propagation of plant species.

Bees like the stingless bee can be as small as 0.08" in, while the Megachile Pluto, leaf-cutter bee is a large as 1.54" in. In the Northern Hemisphere, sweat bees are very prominent. However, their tiny size and sometimes plain coloring causes many to mistake them as flies.

Bee Senses

When discussing how bees communicate one must first identify which senses they use. With the exception of shades of red bees are able to see in color. They are also very sensitive to ultraviolet light. Their ability to see ultraviolet light helps them to detect plants that have nectar guides. Nectar guides are patches of ultraviolet light emitted by plants, and some angiosperm, designed to attract pollinators such as bees.

Outside of their uniquely developed sight, honeybees have a highly sophisticated olfactory system. They are very sensitive to odors, be that nectar or pheromones. They can discriminate based on classical and operant conditioning and are able to retain the information they learn for several days. When foraging, they quickly adjust to food availability. It's believed by some that they make mental maps of their surroundings.

a huge number of bees outside

Interesting Bee Facts

Bees have natural predators. These include animals such as birds, bee wolves, and dragonflies. Nevertheless, most bees are solitary in nature. Only a small percentage of bees are social. Examples of social bees include honeybees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Social bees live within colonies. Colonies vary greatly in size. Some species, like the bumblebee, may have a few as 200 individuals within a colony, while Western honeybee colonies have tens of thousands of individuals as the norm.

Bees As Pollinators

Bees were designed to have a symbiotic relationship with plants. They are perfectly suited for feeding on nectar and pollen. Nectar provides the bee with an energy source while pollen is rich in protein and nutrients. Bee larva is mostly fed a pollen diet. The benefit to the plant is reproductive assistance or pollination.

Bee pollination is crucial for wild plant life. However, it is also one of the main ways commercial farming maintains its production success. For that reason, and a love of honey, beekeeping has been practiced for millennia. In these times, where wild bee populations are rapidly on the decline, commercial pollination has become more crucial. Other than pollination and honey, beeswax, royal jelly, and propolis are beneficial resources harvested from bees.

How Bees Communicate in Social Structures

There are three types of bees in a hive: queens, workers, drones. While only one queen lays eggs per hive, other queens are made to support swarming or to replace a failing queen. Worker bees is a broad category that can be broken down into sub-categories denoting various groups specific functions. Drones are the only males. They are kept solely for reproduction and are forced out of the hive every winter.

All of the bees in a colony work toward a singular purpose. They act as a “super-organism” to ensure the growth and health of their colony. Each Western honeybee colony can have up to 100 thousand members. To maintain such a highly structured social network, how bees communicate, is with advanced communication techniques.

a bee on a flower nectar

How Bees Communicate With Pheromones

A significant portion of honeybee communication is through the use of pheromones. Pheromones are hormones designed to trigger specific responses in members within a species. Honeybees have a chemical communication network that is very complicated. The release of a specific pheromone is a call to a specific action. Honeybees have a very complex chemical communication system. In fact, they are believed to have one of the most complex systems in the natural world.

Sounding The Alarm!

An illustration of this system will be if one worker discovers a threat to the hive. In order to communicate this threat as quickly as possible, she will release an alarm pheromone. The response the pheromone releases is so immediate and coordinated it is shocking. Workers flock to the location of the threat and prepare for a fight!

Many beekeepers can attest to the effectiveness of this system. You are likely familiar with seeing beekeeper using smoke when they approach hives. The tool employed is called a smoker. It is used to help disrupt pheromone communication between the bees. With their communication being disrupted, the bees remain calmer and are easier to handle.

Other Pheromone Communication

Outside of sounding the alarm, bees use pheromones to coordinate a variety of hive necessities like egg laying. The queen is the only fertile female of the hive. She uses specific pheromones to control hive reproduction. These include pheromones that prevent her all-female workforce from the desire to mate. Also, she releases pheromones that encourage the male drones to mate with her. She even has a unique odor that informs the colony she is healthy and alive.

When beekeepers want to introduce a new queen into a hive, they cage her for several days. This is so her future subordinates will get used to her scent. The chemical signals used by bees are so strong that if the queen is unprotected before the hive is acclimated the hive may reject and kill the queen.

Pheromones also control the nursing of larva, finding food, spatial orientation, swarming and other such activities. Chemical communication allows hive members to function more cohesively. It is safe to say the colony would dip into chaos without it. That said, there is another means of communication bees use, dancing. We will discuss that next.

bees in a beehive

How Bees Communicate With Dancing

People have been aware for some time that honey bees dance to communicate. In the literary and scientific world, writings like Historia Animalium by Aristotle address the behavior. Also, Karl Von Frischwon won a Nobel Prize that was partially due to his research into honeybees dancing. In some of the experiments he conducted, he placed a hive in a field with access to a nectar feeder. He observed the bees carefully and noticed they did a waggling dance inside of the hive.

He monitored the bees who danced throughout the day. Ultimately Dr. Frisch calculated the angle the bees did the dance correlated to where the sun was located in the sky. Ultimately he determined the bees were sharing the location of the feeder. He continued to study the dance and determined what he believed to be a language that communicated distance.

The dance is done by a bee walking while vigorously shaking its abdomen and buzzing. One variation of the dance resembles a figure eight with a repetition of the straight portion every time it reaches the center of the pattern. Other variations include a more circular dance, believed to relate to food within 50 meters of the hive, and a crescent-shaped dance, believed to alert members to food 50-150 meters away from the hive.

two bees in a flower


The use of pheromones for bee communication is undisputed. However, some researchers believe communication through dance is not for the relaying of information at all. Rather, since bees have one of the most developed olfactory systems in the animal kingdom, the dance may be used to get attention. Once attention is garnered, proponents of odor plume theory say other bees are recruited by smell. Once the scent of the food source is shared, other bees can use the scent to find the food source.

Interestingly, there is little dispute on either side that odor is used for recruitment. It is only the information about the dance that is debated. Experiments where odorless sugar sources were used - resulting in bees being unable to locate the food source - fuel the debate. Also, there is a logical debate about if a dance done at such confined measurements can accurately give directional information for a location several kilometers away. Even the slightest mistake would throw other bees off course by hundreds of meters.

All of that said, one thing is for sure, bees are phenomenal animals who are highly intelligent, and further research into their behavior can only aid conservation efforts worldwide, and help us to continue to learn how bees communicate.