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Name: Kathleen
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: WI
Date: August 2008

Question:
Can bees fly in the rain? I have a 4 year old asking this question after watching the BEE movie and I can not find anywhere on the internet that has the answer.



Replies:
You probably know the joke answer... "only if they are wearing their little yellow jacket."

As a former beekeeper I can say that my bees didn't seem to venture out in the rain. Not being a bee myself, I can't tell you why. Maybe they don't like getting hit by raindrops and losing their pollen loads, maybe it's because some flowers close up in poor conditions, maybe moisture on their wings disturbs the aerodynamics of flight, maybe it's the darkened skies (they don't forage at night), maybe they stay at home in case there's flooding (similar to how woodsmoke makes them gorge on honey and get ready to abandon the hive). This may just bee (sorry) another mystery for now.

You may have seen the study below during your web search showing that bees were prevented from leaving the hive by simulating rain*. So I think it indicates this was not just my imagination when watching my own bees.

*www.nature.com/nature/journal/v403/n6769/full/403537a0.html

Paul Bridges


Dear Kathleen,

First, I should say, I'm not personally an entomologist (someone who studies insects). But there is a professor at the University of Queensland-Queensland Brain Institute who studies bees closely, including how their brains work and how bees behave, fly, navigate, see and smell. His name is Dr. Charles Claudianos. After the bee movie came out, he was interviewed, since people were looking for facts about bees. One of the facts is that bees can fly in light rain, but have a hard time flying in heavy rain. In 2002 some colonies of honey bees had to be fed by people because the rain was so heavy that they couldn't get out to feed, and were therefore starving.

My non-entomologist gut instinct says that the weight of the water on a bee makes it too heavy to fly...but my other hypothesis is that, because bees use the sun to navigate, if rain means there are clouds, maybe they can't use the sun to navigate and they don't go out because they might get lost. Just a possible suggestion...

You can read the article about bees, some comments from Dr. Claudianos, and some additional bee facts at:

http://www.physorg.com/news123927986.html

Hope this helps.

Michelle Weinberger


Kathleen,

One of my neighbors is a bee-keeper. I asked him.

"Bees can fly in rain, but they don't like to. The sun helps their navigation/sense of direction. When bees get caught in a thunderstorm they have to either fly or wait out the storm."

Warren Young



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