Some people find the buzz of bees soothing, like listening to pattering rain on a rooftop. Others hear the noise and want to run in the other direction. Either way, you may be wondering what bees are up to during the day and where they live?
Bees are most active during the day, foraging for pollen and nectar, building nests, laying eggs (queen bees), and taking care of their young. Depending on the species, bees may either live underground, in excavated holes in wood, under rocks, in crevices, along surfaces, or behind walls.
The phrase ‘busy bee’ really hits home with bees! Let’s check out all the things that bees do during the day and talk about where they live.
Where Do Bees Go During The Day?
If you’re someone who enjoys gardening or keeping a flowerbed, you’re probably aware that bees are great to have around. They can help pollinate flowers and keep the environment happy and healthy.
So, we get it, bees are super important. But what exactly do bees do all day? They can’t just pollinate all day long, right?
Bees come out during the day to forage for food in the form of pollen, oil, and nectar. Bees use these food items to feed their larvae as well. Bees will also use the day to create nests or add on to them.
Almost all bees are active during the day. However, there are some exceptions. A few bee species are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. There are even a few nocturnal bees located in the tropics!
Like all things in the animal kingdom, activity revolves largely around food. And bees are no different. According to a study by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers found that a bee’s circadian clock is tightly bound to the circadian clock of the flowers it visits.
Translation? A crepuscular bee most likely feeds on the nectar of flowers that bloom at dusk and dawn. Similarly, a nocturnal bee feeds on flowers that bloom at night.
The majority of flowering plants will open their blooms during the day, which means the majority of bees come out during the day.
Nocturnal and crepuscular bees spend much of the daylight hours resting inside their nests. This is especially true for nocturnal bees.
Where Do Bees Live And Sleep?
Our busy bees have to sleep at some point. But where do bees go to sleep, and how long do they sleep?
Where a bee sleeps will depend on a few factors such as the sex of the bee, where its nest is located, and what time of day it is. Even inside a nest, bees do not just sleep all willy-nilly. They have an order to their world.
Female bees will almost always sleep inside their nest. They are typically the workers that excavate nests and take care of the young, so they want to stay close when everyone is asleep.
Male bees do not do a whole lot inside the nest, so they will not sleep inside one. Instead, they’ll plop down on their favorite flower and catch a few Zs. There are some instances where a bee will fall over when it sleeps, covering its little body in pollen inside the flower.
Pretty cute for a bee!
In the wild, all bees fit into three categories when it comes to the location of their nest. They either live underground, in abandoned wood holes/rocks, or in wood burrows of their own creation. Let’s check them out in more detail!
Ground-Nesting Bees Sleep In Underground Tunnels
Ground-nesting bees encompass several different bee families and are called miners because they dig their nests underground.
According to Cornell University, about 70% of all bee species build their nests underground. One of the most common ground nesters is that of the plasterer bee species.
Some miner bees are solitary, meaning that every individual female will build her own nest and reproduce. Basically, she’s her own queen.
Other miner bees are social. This means that each nest contains multiple bees but only one is the reproducing queen.
Underground nests are typically located in a sunny, bare spot that is free of flooding from spring through fall. Holes will look conical with a hole directly in the middle. The hole will be slightly larger than the bee’s body.
Inside the hole is a network of tunnels that can reach over a foot below the surface according to a technical guide from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Inside the tunnels will be shoot-offs that end in a brood cell. This is where a queen would lay her eggs.
Whether a bee is social or solitary, when they are resting, they will be inside their ground nest if they are female. Solitary bees may rest deep inside the tunnel to stay warm, while social bees may spread out, some sleeping toward the surface and others resting deeper in the tunnels.
Deadwood Nesting Bees Sleep In Abandoned Beetle Holes
Some bees prefer to be underground, while other bees prefer to nest inside of wood. That being said, dead-wood nesting bees don’t actually want to do the work of creating their own nest.
Deadwood nesters, or hole-nesters, will use holes made by beetles or other wood-boring insects and use them for their nests once they are abandoned. Sometimes they will use hollow stems as well.
Hole-nesting bees will sleep inside their nests if they are female. They will use leaves or mud to separate their nests into single chambers where an egg will be deposited. Bees will not sleep in these chambers. Rather, they will sleep in the main tunnel.
The two most common bees that sleep inside deadwood holes include mason and leafcutter bees. Some of them will use rock crevices or surfaces instead of abandoned holes.
Carpenter Bees Sleep Inside Wood Burrows
Carpenter bees, sometimes called wood-boring bees, are well-known to any homeowner with a wooden home or deck. They like to create little clouds of sawdust as they bore into the wood with their mandibles.
In wild settings, carpenter bees bore into softwood such as dead logs. The holes are nearly perfectly circular and are shaped in a spiral pattern. Inside these holes, carpenter bees will create separate chambers for their eggs.
When sleeping, carpenter bees relax inside the tunnels they have created, dreaming of all the holes they will drill into your lovely wooden deck…
What Time Of Day Are Bees Most Active?
It’s a warm summer morning, you just poured your coffee, and you’re sitting on the porch. Should you be concerned that a busy bee might buzz by or land in your morning cup of joe?
In general, bees are not active early in the morning. They’ll wait until the sun is fully up and most of the dew has dried out before dispersing from their nests.
The exception, of course, is crepuscular bees that are more active at dusk and dawn. You can expect these bees to be up and at em’ as the sun begins to rise.
Late morning and early afternoon are when bees are most active. Flowers are typically open, giving them access to nectar and pollen. Bee activity will slow down as the sun begins to set. At this point, they’ll return to their nests or find a comfy flower to fall asleep on.
Most commonly, bees are especially active during late summer. This is when beehives reach their maximum capacity and new queens are being born.
If you’re finding that you have many active bees nearby during the day, take a look at our article on the reasons you keep getting bees into your house.
What Else Do Bees Do During The Day?
Bees have a lot going on during the day. They pollinate flowers, find nesting areas, build nests, excavate brood cells, raise young, swarm, sting, and relax.
Luckily for social bees, a lot of this work is divided up between different bees. Each bee has its own task such as foraging for pollen, caring for the young, or building more combs inside a nest.
Some people (like me) were under the impression that bees just pollinate the pretty flowers in our flower beds.
But bees do so much more than that!
Pumpkins, zucchini, almonds, blueberries, apples, cranberries, tomatoes, avocados, grapes, strawberries, and macadamia nuts. These are just a FEW of the flowering plants that bees pollinate.
A study done in the Journal of Horticultural Science found that when sweet bell peppers were pollinated by bumblebees instead of natural self-pollination, the fruits were heavier and larger.
The study was done on two different groups. One was the control peppers that were allowed to self-pollinate without the aid of bees. The other group allowed bumblebees to pollinate the peppers.
The peppers that were pollinated by bees turned out better than the control group in terms of weight, girth, and seed set.
Bees help pollinate flowering plants, thus helping the crop industry to produce all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables that we consume.
But bees aren’t doing this completely altruistically. They get something out of the deal, too: FOOD! Bees drink the nectar from flowering plants and eat the pollen. They also use these food items to feed their young.
Some flowers, like the buffalo bur, require bees to put a little extra effort into getting the pollen out of the plant. It’s called buzz-pollination. Buzz pollination is when a flower requires a bee to vibrate a flower’s anthers before its pollen can be extracted.
According to an article in the Journal of Oecologia, the longer the buzz and the greater the amplitude of the buzz, the more pollen gets released from the flower.
Search For Nesting Areas
As soon as the temperatures start to drop and the last gasp of summer fades away to fall, bees start to slow down.
In the Fall, bees stay in their nest longer, huddle together for warmth, and do what they can to survive. At this time, new queen bees will begin to emerge within the nest. These queen bees will mate and then set off on their own to find a warm place to hide during the winter.
For most bee species, the rest of the colony will die off once the temperatures drop too low. However, some species like the honeybee will have colonies that survive for a few years.
When Spring begins to take hold, the slumbering and pregnant queen bees will stir, shaking out stiff legs and wings. They’ll immediately scope out a new nesting area, rarely ever using an old nesting site.
The nesting site of the queen will depend on what species of bee. Ground nesters will begin digging, hole-nesters will search for abandoned holes, and wood-boring bees will begin boring into softwood.
The nest does not have to be complete before the new queen bee begins laying a few eggs. The first generation of new bees will all be sterile female worker bees. Once these bees are full adults, the queen hands over all the day-to-day activities to the workers.
Care For Their Young
Once a colony has been established, the queen bee can sit back and relax. After all, she only has one job: to lay more eggs. She doesn’t even have to care for the young once the first generation of worker bees are mature.
So, how exactly do worker bees care for their young?
Let’s start at the beginning. When a queen bee is first starting, she will have to find or make a nest. Once this is done, she will have to start storing pollen and nectar inside the nest for her future eggs.
For each egg the queen lays, she will want enough pollen and nectar to feed the bee through its entire lifecycle to adult bee. That means providing enough pollen and nectar for the larvae so they can spin a cocoon and eventually emerge as full-grown bees.
Once this first round of bees grows up, the worker bees take over caring for the young. This encompasses a few duties:
- Adding more rooms to the nest for more eggs: When a queen is first starting out, she will not spend more energy than is necessary to lay her first batch of eggs. However, after this first batch, the colony will quickly grow. New brood chambers must be excavated to make room for more eggs.
- Collecting pollen and nectar from flowers: This is not only necessary to feed adult bees, but it’s necessary to feed larvae and young bees as well. Some bees will spend every second of daylight outside collecting pollen and nectar.
- Providing the young with collected pollen and nectar: Once the worker bees have collected the necessary pollen and nectar to feed themselves and all the larvae in the nest, they must return to the nest and deposit the food. Some species mix pollen with their saliva to make a paste, others simply deposit the nectar or pollen in the brood cell.
- Protecting the nest and eggs if disturbed: Bees are not inherently aggressive like some wasp species. However, if a predator tries to destroy or dig through a bee’s nest, the worker bees will protect the nest and the young by stinging the offending predator.
Bees will try to protect their nest if they can. According to an article in the Journal of Insect Physiology, guard bees use scent-based recognition to identify things that do and don’t belong in their nest.
If they smell something that doesn’t belong in the nest, they’ll release an alarm pheromone that calls other nestmates to their aid to defend the nest!
Bees Swarm During The Day If Their Nest Is Destroyed
When you think of a bee swarm, you may be picturing someone running away from a giant nest hanging in a tree.
This is definitely not what we mean by bee swarming.
Bees will swarm on tree branches, rocks, fences, or other surfaces if their nest gets destroyed. All this means is that the colony moves out of the original nest and locates to a temporary spot, such as a tree branch or rock.
While the bees are swarming this area, worker bees are out hunting for a new den location. Once a new location is found, the bees will immediately relocate to the new nest area and start work on excavating and collecting food.
Swarming is a way that bees keep together after their nest is destroyed. They’re not swarming anything in particular, just trying to stick together until a new home is found.
What To Do If You Have Bees On Your Property
The good news for many homeowners is that bees are rarely as big a problem as wasps or other insect/spider issues around the home.
Bees tend to keep to themselves and build their nests in areas away from areas of high human activity. However, it’s easy to accidentally run into a bee’s nest when mowing the lawn or moving firewood.
If you’d like to learn what to do in-depth, check out our article: 6 Things To Do If You Find Bees and Wasps in Your House!
If you have bees on your property, there are a few things you can do to keep them away from your house and avoid contact with them.
- Habitat Modification: Clean up all spilled food or drinks and secure your trash cans. You can use something like Blazer Brand’s Strong Strep Universal Garbage Can Lid Lock to keep your lids from falling off and attracting bees. Stack wood neatly and mow your lawn regularly.
- Stain/Finish Wood: Carpenter bees love to drill into wood, even if that wood belongs to your home! To keep them from making holes, try using Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths to make your wood less attractive to carpenter bees.
- Call A Professional: If you’re having trouble with bees around your home you can always reach out to a professional for help. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional near you!
- Use Scent-Based Deterrents: We mentioned before that bees are pretty beneficial to have around. But we don’t want them up close and personal around our home. You can use scent-based deterrents to keep them away from your home.
Scents like citrus oil, peppermint, and eucalyptus can effectively deter bees from certain areas. For a more thorough list of scent deterrents, check out our article Use These 10 Essential Oils To Keep Bees Away (Humanely).
Wrapping Things Up
Bees are one of the most beneficial insects on the planet. They help pollinate our crops and flowers so much that we’ve come to depend on these fuzzy little insects.
Most bees are active during the day, but some are crepuscular or nocturnal. During the day, bees have a few things going on:
- Building nests
- Foraging for pollen and nectar
- Taking care of their young
- Excavating new brood cells
- Protecting their nest
Depending on the species of bee, they may live in nests underground, or make use of an abandoned hole made by a beetle in some deadwood. Some bee species also drill their own holes in wood. Still, others like to call rocks and crevices their home.
All in all, bees do a lot of good for us and the environment. It’s not recommended to eliminate bees on your property unless they get inside your home. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to let them bee…hah! Get it?
Bloch, G., Bar-Shai, N., Cytter, Y., & Green, R. (2017). Time is honey: circadian clocks of bees and flowers and how their interactions may influence ecological communities. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 372(1734), 20160256.
De Luca, P. A., Bussiere, L. F., Souto-Vilaros, D., Goulson, D., Mason, A. C., & Vallejo-Marin, M. (2013). Variability in bumblebee pollination buzzes affects the quantity of pollen released from flowers. Oecologia, 172, 805-816.
Hunt, G. J. (2007, May). Flight and fight: A comparative view of the neurophysiology and genetics of honey bee defensive behavior. Journal of Insect Physiology, 53(5), 399-410.
Maini, S., Medrzycki, P., & Porrini, C. (2010). The puzzle of honey bee losses: a brief review. Bulletin of Insectology, 63(1), 153-160.
Serrano, A. R., & Guerra-Sanz, J. M. (2006, October 09). Quality fruit improvement in sweet pepper culture by bumblebee pollination. Scientia Horticulturae, 110(2), 160-166.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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