Bed Time in Bee Land

Have you been wondering whether busy honey bees ever sleep?

Most foragers sleep at night from 5 to 8 hours after their hard day’s work and occasionally nap briefly on a flower during daylight.  They are the oldest bees in the colony except for the queen.

Honey bee forager napping on a flower (image Rusty Berlew)

Younger adults working inside the perpetually dark hive take short naps at any time during their 24-hour day, and need less sleep overall than their older nestmates do.

When they do sleep, it is often inside cells close to the center of the nest. But sometimes several cluster with their feet clasping those of their companions, as if “holding hands” as they snooze at the quiet edges of frames.  

Two workers sleeping on comb at the frame’s edge (video image: buzzaboutbees)

Honey bees are not alone in their need for beauty rest–other bees have been caught catching forty winks, too, often in endearing poses in a petal-bed: see a fuzzy bumble bee dozing on a dandelion, or a pair of native globe-mallow bees dreaming inside the mallow blossom where they were gathering nectar.

Bumble bee snoozing on a dandelion (image: Bright Vibes)
A pair of bees (Diadasia diminuta) asleep in a globe mallow flower (image: JM Neely on boredpanda.com)

How would you recognize a sleeper? It’s the only time you may see a bee’s antennae completely still, lowered and at rest, while the head and body are also relaxed with no movement at all.

And the longer or more deeply the little insect sleeps, the harder it is to waken—can you relate?

References:

Berlew, Rusty, 2017, “How often do honey bees sleep in flowers?” honeybeesuite.com.

Buzz About Bees, 2021, “Do Bees Sleep?” buzzaboutbees.com

Klein BA, M. Stiegler, A. Klein, and J. Tautz, 2014, Mapping sleeping bees within their nest: spatial and temporal analysis of worker honey bee sleep. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102316.

Rothschild, A. D. and G. Bloch, 2008, Differences in the sleep architecture of forager and young honeybees (Apis mellifera). J. Exp. Biol. 211,2408 -2416.

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