How Far Do Bees Forage? (You Should Know This)

We have all seen busy bees at the task of collecting pollen and nectar for their hives. This is one of the most important parts of a bee’s day.

Bees would travel 2 miles (about 3.5km) outside their hive to forage for food and thing to keep the hive going. Although there have been cases where bees have travelled two times that journey to forage.

The worker bees gather the nectar and pollen back to their hive to feed the queen, the brood and also store up honey for the coming winter.

This act is known as foraging and when we see bees at their tasks we sometimes wonder if the hive is close by.

Today we will be talking about bee foraging, how far the bees will go for food, what time they forage and a few other things.

At the end you’ll be able to understand bees’ lives a little better.

Do Bees Forage Close To The Hive?

How Far Do Bees Forage

Most beekeepers have reported that their bees usually forage far from the hives even if there are plants around the hive.

A beekeeper claimed that her bees were usually foraging at her hummingbird feeder and she tried making them come closer to the hive and even placed sugar syrup directly in front of their hive, however the bees kept returning to the hummingbird tree.

Before bees go out to forage, a party of scout bees will go out to find the best foraging site for the day and when they return, they communicate the specific location of the plants to their comrades through a series of moves known as the waggle dances.

Bees can forage close to their hive if they like the plants around it.

Bees only collect nectar from flowers and plants with high sugar around it, so if there are such plants they could decide to forage there.

Having those plants around though is not a guarantee that the plants will forage close to the hive.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can bees be friendly

How Far Will Honey Bees Travel For Food?

Bees have different species and these usually affect their foraging behavior. solitary or semi-social bees who only have to feed their brood do not usually go far from their hive to forage food

However the social bees like the bumble and honey bees who have colonies with their population in thousands have to find enough food for all and store up for the winter.

When bees go out to forage, they usually go over miles to get their nectar and pollen from whatever location they have picked out as the best.

A bee can fly from about 2 – 6miles from their hive per day to forage for food.

Usually they stick to about two or three miles from the hive to make it easier for them when they are returning home.

Most times they are already loaded with pollen or nectar on the return journey and have to fly at a slower pace.

The scout bees have to fly farther than other bees in the colony as they are tasked with finding the best source of food for the hive, which they go back to the hive to report. 

How Far Will Bees Chase You?

If you have accidentally angered a group of bees and they start buzzing angrily then you are in for a long chase. 

Some species of bees such as the Africanized bees are known to chase threats for about half a mile once they have got the scent in their nose. Some species can lose interest after a short while though

The best way to escape the chase is to find a secure shelter such as a house or a car where the bees can’t get in.

If there is no shelter around, try to run into bushes or scrubs as their scent could distract the bees from chasing you.

If you try to jump into water as a way of saving yourself, you just made more trouble.

The bees will keep buzzing around the surface until you come up for air and will sting your mouth and nose repeatedly. 

This can be particularly fatal to people who are allergic to bee stings.

Also check out this article I wrote on bees and whether they can see color

What Time Of The Day Do Bees Forage?

Forager bees are up and ready to go by sunrise. Bees always make the most of daylight as they have to get back to the hive before sunset. 

Sunrise is also the best time for the forager bees to start their work because the environment is still damp from dew and the pollen on the flowers are wet. 

As it draws towards afternoon the bees increase their activity so they can make the most of the daylight and get back to their hive before dark.

As a beekeeper it is important that you know your beehive pattern and when your bees are most active and their off-peak hours so you can mold anything you want to carry out around that

How Far Do Honey Bees Travel For Water?

Apart from foraging for nectar and pollen, forager bees are also saddled with finding and bringing water back to the colony for the various uses. 

Water is mainly used for cooling the hive during the hot water period and when it is brought to the hive, the inhouse worker bees will spread it on the brood cells and fan it vigorously to make it evaporate into the cell.

The bees who feed the larvae also require high quantities of water to digest the food that is fed to the developing larvae.

One thing to note is that bees do not store water but they find and use it as the need arises.

The forager bees can go as far as 6 km or more to find water for the colony.

Sources of water for bees include: damp branches of trees, damp rock surfaces, muddy pools and drops on leaves and other vegetation. 

Once the bees find water, they swallow it and store it in their crops before flying back to the hive.

They then transfer the water to the house bees who will be waiting to collect it at the hive.

How Far Does A Bee Travel For Pollen?

A bee can travel for pollen away from the hive for up to 6km and reports have it they can go as far as 20km from the hive in search of food. 

The length honeybees are able to travel is sometimes defined by the temperature at the moment.

Bees are most active at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit and most active at 65 degrees.

This shows that honey bees are more likely to travel further for pollen during the summer as they would not easily lose energy.

However as winter approaches and the temperature drops the honey bees will forage close to home to conserve their energy for the flight back home.

However if the colony doesn’t have enough supplies for the winter yet, the bees might have to travel further to ensure they are able to reach the amount.

How Far Do Bees Typically Forage?

As we have mentioned bee foraging usually exceeds the boundaries of their hives and they will travel as much as they need to for the best source of nectar, pollen, water and other essentials the bee hive might need.

Research has shown that bees typically forage within a 6km mile radius. This figure could be higher or lower depending on various factors.

Conclusion

Foraging is an important aspect of bee lives and the forager bees know when and how to carry out their tasks to contribute to the successful running of the colony. 

Bees are industrious animals who have an organized social structure and daily routine.

As a beekeeper knowing and understanding the bees helps you to raise them better and get the best from them.

It also ensures you do not mess with their daily routine which can cause a lag or a negative effect on the beehive health. 

Written by Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books

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