Who hasn’t seen bees out enjoying bright sunny warm days? They fly from flower to flower looking for nectar or pollen. But what about cloudy wet days? Can bees fly in the rain? The threat of a storm with large raindrops may prevent your honey bees from leaving their hive.
Are Bees Active During Rain?
While they prefer nice weather, anyone who owns a beehive will admit to seeing bees flying about in light rain. A gently light drizzle or light sprinkle does not cause the colony to call in all foragers for the day.
However, flying on a rainy day is a risk to a working honey bee. When the wings of a bee get wet, they become heavy. This makes flying more difficult. A heavy rain can even break bee’s wing.
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Can Honey Bees Fly if They Get Wet?
Heavy wet wings are one problem but not the only consideration. As water droplets adhere to the honey bee’s body fuzz, it becomes more weighed down requires more energy to remain in motion.
She may actually fall to the ground. Even if the bee remains in flight, she may become so exhausted that she can not make it back to her beehive. You may sometimes find a bee in need of rescue on cool rainy days.
The honey bee colony is one of the most efficient organisms on the planet. They gather the best food sources from the closet location. Time is money – or honey? They do not invest the energy in flying far away to a food source if something better is close by.
Just as in situations with high winds, a point is reached when the effort is not worth the payoff. It is better to wait out the weather and try again at another time. So, on windy days most of the workers decide to stay home.
Bees Know When it is Going to Rain
It is true that bad weather can trigger defensive behavior in honey bee colonies. The colony is aware that threatening weather is moving into the area.
It is believed they use their sensitivity to temperature, humidity, wind speed and barometric pressure to detect inclement weather approaching.
This evokes a strong need to protect the young brood and food resources stored in the hive. All new beekeepers are taught to avoid performing hive inspections on days when rainy weather is threatening.
In addition to the colony feeling more protective, the older members of the hive are likely to be home.
Colony Activity Before a Storm
Seeing active bees on a day with mist is nothing out of the norm. But, a stormy day will keep them at home.
Summer storms coming over the mountains is a common occurrence in my location. As the storm get closers, the entrances to the hives become very congested with foraging workers returning from the field.
Unlike activity on a pleasant dry day, these foragers to do not immediately leave the hive after unloading their nectar or pollen. They remain inside where they will be safer from the rain and wind.
Where do the Bees Go When it Rains?
When storm weather begins, most honey bees that are in the hive will remain there. Foragers in the field but nearby will try to return home.
If a bee is too far away or the rain is too hard for flight, she will try to set down in a sheltered location to dry and wait out the bad weather.
Of course there is a lot of variability in the world of bees. Even among honey bees, some hives will fly in colder or wetter weather than others. This is due to the genetics of the varieties of bees in your hives.
Another interesting fact, bumble bees and honey bees share many common traits but bumble bees will continue to forage in wetter conditions that honey bees. Most of them are larger with sturdier more powerful wings.
While bees can fly in the rain, at least to a degree, they realize it is risky. It also may not be profitable as the energy required to gather food resources is greater.
This is one reason that cool, wet weather conditions can be so damaging to honey bee colonies during early Spring. Food sources such as Red Maple blossoms or dandelions may be out there but the weather is too bad for good foraging.