They don’t call them “busy bees” for nothing!
There are times when these industrious little creatures buzz around relentlessly from flower to flower. And other times, they just disappear.
The ebb and flow of bee activity vary during the day and throughout the year according to seasonal changes.
But when exactly are bees less active?
Knowing the cycles of activity of bees helps beekeepers understand when they should and shouldn’t be disturbed, making maintenance operations more straightforward.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know…
When Are Bees Least Active?
Honey bees are least active during the winter when the temperatures are too cold and there is little forage in the field. Bees will also be less busy in cool, wet weather and from sunset to sunrise. Many beekeepers prefer to perform some maintenance tasks at night for this reason.
At certain times when bees are dormant, it’s an ideal opportunity for a beekeeper to perform maintenance tasks. However, disturbing the bees during other periods of inactivity will be detrimental and can cause the colony to be compromised.
What Months Are Bees Least Active?
The months of lowest bee activity will depend on where you live. If you have mild winters, the bees may remain active throughout the cool season if sufficient food is available.
Winter honey bees are least active during the cooler months in regions with severe cold and when there are fewer food resources to forage. During this time, most of the bees’ energy is focused on keeping the inside of the hive warm.
Bees can remain busy for most of the autumn season with sufficient forage and favorable temperatures. Still, their activity will taper off as the temperature drops in late autumn.
Bees will generally not venture out of the hive in temperatures below 55°F or 12°C, as they struggle to fly in these cold conditions. However, bees can survive outside the hive in temperatures as low as 28°F or -2°C before succumbing to the cold.
Beekeepers should never open a hive in temperatures below 60°F or 15°C to prevent all the heat accumulated in the hive from escaping and jeopardizing the queen’s and the colony’s survival.
My policy as a beekeeper is to do my winter hive maintenance in the autumn and leave the bees alone with no disturbances throughout the winter.
When to perform winter maintenance on your hives depends on your local autumn and winter conditions.
When Are Bees Less Active In The Summer?
Bees will be the least active in the summertime during periods of extreme heat, such as in the midday hours between noon and 2 pm. Bees are also inactive during periods of rain in the summer.
Spring and summer are usually the most active seasons for all bees since this is the time when resources are most abundant. During this time of abundance, the bees can produce honey and workers to boost the colony’s strength.
Bees generally have a high tolerance for heat. But when the temperature exceeds 113°F or 45°C, the bees will become less active.
In these temperatures, it will be all-hands-on-deck in the hive to cool the inside of the hive down to protect the eggs and larvae from dying.
Also, bees can fly in light rain, but heavy rain can make the bee’s wings too wet to fly. If the raindrops get large enough, they can damage the bee’s wings.
Furthermore, bees also use the sun to navigate, so if the sun is obscured by heavy clouds or mist conditions, they are reluctant to leave the safety of the hive.
Springtime is the best season to maintain the hives for the coming production season before the colony increases in number and outgrows their current accommodation.
At What Temperature Do Bees Become Active?
Bees will start venturing out of the hive in search of resources once the outside temperature rises above 60°F or 15°C. Above these temperatures, the bee can function correctly and will not be limited by the distance that it can forage from the hive.
Are Bees Less Active In Cold Weather?
Although bees can tolerate relatively low temperatures, they will start to become inactive when the temperatures drop. This causes their duties to change.
When the air temperature drops below 60°F or 15°C, the bees will not leave the hive. This is due to two main reasons. First, the bees struggle to fly in temperatures below this point, and more bees are needed to generate heat inside the hive to keep the internal temperature optimal for the colony’s survival.
You will notice a drop-off in the activity once the temperature drops below 62.5°F or 17°C, which is approaching their no-fly threshold temperature.
Are Bees Less Active In The Rain?
The activity of the bees will be affected by wet and rainy conditions. Bees do not like to be out and about in wet weather because their wings can become too damp to sustain flight, or their wings may get damaged.
Bees can fly in drizzle or light rain. Still, they will remain indoors if the weather is about to worsen with the temperatures dropping or the rain becomes harder.
Extended periods of rain during the spring or summer months can affect honey production in beehives. The amount of honey a beekeeper can harvest in a particularly wet season can be significantly reduced.
What Time Of Day Are Bees The Least Active?
All bees have periods of the day that are more active and less active. This is often driven by the available light and the times when flowers are likely to be open for pollinators.
Are Bees Less Active In The Morning?
Bees are more active in the morning, not less active. After sunrise, the hive warms up, and flowers begin to open, making this an ideal moment for foraging.
The bees start stirring in the hive as the sun begins to rise above the horizon. The coldest hours of the night are usually just before dawn, which requires the bees to be indoors, regulating the hive’s internal temperature.
As the sun edges above the horizon, it will take over, warming the hive, and the bees can leave the hive to begin foraging. In the early morning, many plants open their flowers, making resources available to pollinators.
Flowers will often close as the temperatures rise towards noon, producing less nectar to attract the bees.
Bees also use the sun to navigate, so a sun rising in the morning is an ideal time for their foraging duties to begin.
Are Bees Less Active In The Evening?
Bees will head home to the hive once the sun starts to set. Then, when the sun has dropped below the horizon and the last light starts to fade, all the foraging bees will be back home and settle down for the night inside the hive.
Activity in the hive will diminish to the point where only the bees responsible for temperature regulation or guard duty will be active.
If you put your ear to a beehive in the evening, you will hear the activity inside diminish as the evening progresses. Even the temperature regulating bees will slow their movements as the outside temperature cools.
Are Bees Less Active At Night?
Bees are less active at night, and at this time, many beekeepers choose to perform potentially disruptive operations, such as honey harvesting or seasonal maintenance. This time of day is best for these actions if you are working with an aggressive colony.
The bees will settle down very quickly after these disturbances to the colony in the darkness of night.
Moving beehives to new locations is also done at night so that no foraging bees are lost to the colony. The bees are all home at night, and the hive can be moved to the new location. In the morning, the bees will realize they are in a new area and orient themselves by buzzing around for a while before resuming their daily activities.
Removal of problem beehives is also best done at night when the bees are all home and less active. Then, all the bees from the colony can be captured and removed to a new location.
When Do Bees Stop Being Active?
The activity in a beehive never stops completely. There is always work to do for each member of the colony.
The main times the bees’ activity reduces are in cold seasons, during wet and overcast conditions, and at night when the sun sets.
In hot climates, activity outside the hive will diminish during the hottest part of the day. However, there will still be activity inside the hive to regulate the internal temperature.
So, while the activity may reduce during these conditions, the bees never stop being active completely.
Bees are remarkable creatures that always seem active and busy, but their activities have lower and higher cycles.
Understanding these changes will give you knowledge about what is happening inside the beehive and allow you to time your beekeeping activities to cause as little distress to the bees as possible!