Bees are known for their tireless work ethic, buzzing from flower to flower in search of nectar and pollen. But as the sun sets, do bees take time to rest and recharge?
Research has shed new light on the sleeping habits of bees, revealing surprising insights into the world of these fascinating insects.
In this article, we will explore the topic of bee sleep, examining what we know (and don’t know) about their resting habits.
Do bees sleep?
Based on research by Walter Kaiser in 1983, honey bees sleep an average of 5-8 hours at night. Like humans, they follow a similar relaxed, light, and deep sleep pattern. Bees also exhibit a relaxed posture before going into a state of slumber.
When a bee sleeps, its body temperature will drop. It also appears to go into a deep sleep that requires brighter light to wake it up. These characteristics are similar to what scientists see in humans.
Bees sleep with a relaxed posture and are immobile. They also demonstrate similar electrical activity in the brain.
Researchers have spent less time looking at bumble bee sleep behavior. However, beekeepers often observe bumblebees sleeping during the day. They commonly note an unresponsive insect with drooped antennae.
How to tell if a bee is sleeping
Bees don’t have eyelids, so their eyes won’t let you know if they’re asleep. However, when bees reach the deep sleep stage, their thorax and abdomen drop down while the wings rest on their body. Its antennae stop moving and droop downwards.
Other signs of a sleeping bee include:
- Flexing legs as its head drops to the ground.
- Folded legs under their body or hold onto their legs during sleep.
- Extremely tired bees may slump over to the side and fall into an exhausted slumber.
Why do bees need sleep?
Bees need to sleep to recharge their batteries, like humans. Without a regular sleep schedule, the Apis mellifera suffers from reduced performance in daily roles. Simple tasks like navigating home on a different route will become a challenge.
Reduced sleep impedes the honey bee’s ability to perform waggle dances. This fascinating movement is a communication method used by the worker bee. It performs circular motions, directing other foragers to food sources. Studies found that sleep-deprived bees were poor communicators and didn’t waggle dance with the same precision.
A bee’s memory also gets affected by poor sleep patterns. They have difficulty locating known food sources, and orientation flights take longer.
Where do bees sleep?
Rather than sleep in random positions, honey bees slumber in a location that fits their role in the colony. Younger bees sleep closer to the center of the nest, often in honeycomb cells. Older forager bees sleep towards the edge of the hive. While older bees have a fixed sleep pattern, younger bees don’t; this is like comparing baby and adult humans.
During winter, honey bees huddle as a group inside the nest to stay warm. In the cold months, you won’t see bees sleeping on flowers outside; instead, they choose the warmth of the beehive.
Honey bee scouts searching for a new hive location will often sleep away from the hive. They may have a sleepover at a potential new hive location before the rest of the swarm follows.
- Honey bee drones sometimes choose to sleep away from the hive on a comfortable plant.
- Female bumblebees usually sleep in the nest, but males will sleep outside on flowers.
- Male solitary bees sleep outside the nest and will sometimes sleep on flowers and grass stalks away from their nest.
- Female solitary bees sleep in the comfort of their nest.
Do bees rest?
All honey bees rest when needed, especially the male drones, which may relax all day. Thanks to their rigorous schedule, worker bees are less inclined to take a break.
As night arrives, bees don’t always stop work and nap immediately. Worker bees typically find a quiet spot to groom themselves or relax in an immobile state.
Commonly asked questions
When do bees sleep?
Honey bees follow different sleep patterns based on their role in the colony. Forager bees follow a similar day-night cycle to humans, probably because they can’t forage in the dark. Young honey bees may sleep in the day or night, although researchers have found sleep times are the same at any age.
What do bees do when they wake up?
Based on research, honey bees have been found to groom after waking up. After that, they will get started working or go back to sleep.
What time do bees go to bed?
Honey bees sleep for five to eight hours, with the foragers working in the hours of light and sleeping at night. Younger bees in roles like nursing will get the same amount of sleep, but it could be at any time within a 24-hour period.
Have researchers looked at whether pesticides impact bee sleep?
Scientists have discovered that neonicotinoid pesticides are especially bad for bees. They use their internal clocks to help with sleeping. When bees eat neonicotinoids, it messes up their circadian rhythm making it harder for them to establish regular sleep patterns. Read the research>
- Honey bees get 5-8 hours of sleep each day.
- The first invertebrate to have its sleep recorded was the honey bee.
- Foragers sleep at night when sourcing nectar and pollen isn’t possible.
Honey bees are hard-working insects, so they need 5-8 hours of sleep to regenerate each night. As night falls, foraging bees will return to the colony and settle into sleep, near the periphery of the hive. Younger workers get the same amount of sleep, but they may not follow the same day-night sleep pattern. Instead, they sleep day or night, as needed.
Research has found that without sleep bees do not function well. Their mental and cognitive faculties begin to shut down, making hard work of simple tasks.
Future research on bee sleep could focus on investigating the role of sleep in bee cognition, understanding the neural mechanisms, examining the effects of environmental factors on bee sleep, and exploring resting patterns across different bee species.
These studies could shed light on the importance of sleep for bees and its potential impact on their health and survival.
– Bees deprived of sleep have difficulty waggle dance signaling. Barrett A. Klein et al. (2010).
– Sleep-deprived bees have difficulty learning a new route home (Beyaert, L., Greggers, U. and Menzel, R. (2012). Honeybees consolidate navigation memory during sleep. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 3981-3988).