Most of us know that pretty much every living thing on Earth requires rest in the form of sleep.
But some animals have entirely unique sleeping habits, either being active at night and sleeping during the day, or entering a state of sort of suspended animation where they aren’t really asleep.
But what about insects? Seems like any time of day there’s always insects on the go, so do they sleep at all? How about bees? Do bees sleep?
Yes, bees do sleep. Bees need sleep to recover their energy and refresh themselves so they can perform at maximum efficiency. Bees that are sleep-deprived will make mistakes when performing their task or interacting with other bees.
Well, I’m glad to know that I have something in common with my bee friends: the longer they go without sleep the more things they start to mess up, too!
All jokes aside, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that bees need rest considering all that they do. There are hardly any other insects that work as hard as your average honey bee.
But the subject of sleep as it concerns bees is truly remarkable, so keep reading and I’ll tell you a lot more down below…
How Do Bees Sleep?
Bees have a fairly unique sleeping position, one that will vary slightly depending on the exact species.
Most bees will try to find a quiet spot where they won’t be disturbed or bumped into, then they will flex their legs a little bit, hunker down, and lower their heads until they are resting on the surface they are standing on. During sleep, a bee’s antennas will be still.
That’s generally the only way you can spot them: bees don’t snore, and they don’t have eyelids that close, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for bees that are holding still and generally off by themselves if you want to stand a chance of spotting a sleeping bee.
Do Bees Sleep in Flowers?
Yes, they do! But why they do depends on the species and the circumstances.
For some bees that don’t live communally, sleeping in a flower is an everyday occurrence. Carpenter bees, particularly the males, are one such species that will regularly sleep in a flower.
These will usually sleep in there for protection from predators, and also a degree of insulation when temperatures drop.
If you ever see a bee in a flower that is holding perfectly still, it probably isn’t dead, just sleeping!
Do Honey Bees Ever Sleep Away from the Hive?
Yes, sometimes. Bees tend to take rest whenever they need it, and for workers that are out gathering pollen or out scouting the looking for new and distant hive locations for an upcoming swarm, they will try to find a quiet place out in the wild to get a few winks.
In fact, many communal bees will also choose to sleep in a flower on an as-needed basis. Much of the time, the hive itself will be too busy and too crowded for a honey bee to get any rest inside.
If possible, they’ll move away from most of the work and activity going on inside and put their heads down for a little bit of sleep, or if they are fortunate they can perhaps wriggle into a vacant cell to nod off for a little while.
But if this proves impossible, and there is enough light outside for them to fly, they might fly off to pick some other quiet spot for their rest.
In rare cases where a bee is unable to make it back to the hive before sundown, she’ll have to take her chances sleeping outside, though a snap of cold weather will usually kill them.
How Long Do Bees Sleep?
Specific information concerning how long these sleep when they do go to sleep is generally lacking.
However, most experts seem to agree that your average bee will get between 6 and 8 hours of rest every single day, not too far off from the amount that most people get.
However, the sleep cycle of bees, if you want to call it that, is somewhat different with bees usually getting deeper and more meaningful rest right away when they go to sleep, and then eventually tapering back up towards a more wakeful state as their rest period goes on.
When Do Bees Usually Go to Bed?
As mentioned, bees typically go to bed whenever they need rest assuming they’re able to find a place where they can get rest.
Bees don’t go to sleep when the sun goes down necessarily, because work continues inside the hive.
And bees don’t, in fact, need much if any light to work inside it: keep in mind that most enclosed beehives are in fact quite dark already!
Accordingly, you’ll have bees typically going to sleep in “shifts,” with a certain fraction of the population trying to sleep while the rest keep working, and this taking place around the clock.
What Time Do Bees Wake Up?
Again, because bees do not have a set bedtime, they don’t have a set time that they get up.
Bees might have to take their sleep broken up into smaller segments throughout the day depending on what’s happening, and so they could be waking up at any time of day or night.
What Happens if a Bee Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?
Something remarkable happens if bees don’t get enough sleep: they start to mess things up! Just like us humans, sleep-deprived bees are bees that are prone to make mistakes…
This is reflected in the reduced speed and efficiency of their task, whether that is constructing cells from wax, laying down propolis, or gathering pollen.
Their reflexes will also slow down, and they get sluggish which impairs how they dance and waggle to communicate with other bees.
You might say they’re slurring their speech a little bit because they are so tired!
And the longer a bee is forced to go without rest, the worse this will become up to a point, before the bee will basically shut down from exhaustion.
Will a Bee Attack You if You Wake it Up?
Generally not, although it isn’t out of the question.
Experiments performed on sleeping bees in the wild and in captivity show that if they’re disturbed while sleeping, they will wake up, flex their legs a little bit and start wiggling their antennas again before they clean them off and then get back to work doing what they were supposed to be doing.
Assuming there isn’t any obvious threat, or pheromones indicating that they should go on defense a bee that is woken up gently by any means generally usually won’t mind too much.
But you never know! Some bees might be very grouchy if they don’t get their beauty sleep, so keep your hands to yourself.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.