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During the summer, it’s not uncommon to see bees buzzing around all the time. It looks as though they’re on a never-ending flight and while they may be small, they can certainly go the distance. But have you ever wondered How Far Can A Bee Fly Without Landing?
How far a bee flies largely depends on the species and what it is doing. For example, is it looking for food or is it pollinating? Honey bees are known to fly the furthest with around five miles being the average.
Let’s go on a journey with the bees and find out more about their flying habits and how far they’ll typically travel on any given day.
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If you keep honey bees then you’ll probably want to know as much as possible about your hive members. What’s fascinating about these little critters is how far they can fly without needing to stop. Some honey bees will forage as far as five miles but generally speaking, you won’t find them more than a mile or so from their hive; that’s still a long way when you’re so small.
But what really fascinates me is that, when you consider how far an entire hive of 60,000 bees flies over the course of one day, you’d be looking at the distance between the earth and the moon!
Honey bees are known for not foraging directly in the vicinity of the hive but there are things that can affect this. For example, there is one piece of research that shows the distance bees will travel for food could be based on the seasons.
This study showed that bees won’t travel unnecessary distances but travel the furthest during the summer months. Even more interesting and perhaps surprisingly, to me at least, was the fact that bees tend to travel further in early fall than they do in spring. This is likely to do with food becoming more sparse.
Bumble bees are different to honey bees in a lot of ways, primarily in their appearance and how much honey they produce. However, one of the main differences can be seen in their flight habits. Bumble bees do not fly anywhere near as long distances as honey bees.
Bumble bees won’t typically venture any further than a mile from their nest but it’s more common to find them within just 100m. That said, there are various species of bumble bee and each one will go different distances, although none would travel further than one mile.
Just like us, bees need water but they aren’t as picky as humans when it comes to finding a water source. This can be a bad thing for beekeepers as it means that the bees may end up using contaminated water which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure you provide a fresh source of water for your bees.
Normally, bees will travel just as far for water as they do for food which could be up to five miles. The water source doesn’t need to be a lake, pond or some other large body. Bees are happy even to take a few small droplets from a leaf, for example.
Honey bees not only travel considerable distances every day but they do so at an impressive speed. Generally speaking, these bees will travel up to 20 miles per hour when they’re out foraging. Once they’ve got their food, they tend to fly a little slower since they’re somewhat weighed down but they’ll still travel up to 12 miles per hour!
Honey bees won’t typically fly any higher than about 30 meters and that’s usually when the males are looking for a mate. That said, they are capable of going higher than this especially if thermal air takes them up.
The problem is that as you get higher, the air gets colder and bees don’t fly well in cold temperatures so this does limit their flight height somewhat. Once the bee got too cold, its muscles wouldn’t be able to stay warm enough to keep it in flight.
Moreover, honey bees don’t really have much reason to fly any higher than the trees and plants that they are feeding on.
With all of that in mind, one interesting study showed that bumble bees are actually able to fly higher than Mount Everest! Scientists simulated conditions at the peak of the great mountain and found that, in some cases, the bees were able to exceed conditions seen at 30,000 feet above sea level!
It would be pretty difficult to say how far an individual bee could fly in its life. There are so many factors to take into consideration such as age, health, local weather conditions and availability of food. This makes it almost impossible to come up with an average.
However, you could think about all of the work it would take to produce honey if a bee was not part of a hive. Keep in mind that this is entirely hypothetical and not even possible but it can put things into perspective for you.
A single bee will only make around 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over the course of its life. The whole hive combined is going to make a lot more which is why bees need to work together. But let’s imagine that one bee was to make 1 pound of honey over its life by working alone; that bee would need to travel as far as 90,000 miles to get the job done!
Bees are truly fascinating creatures and the more you learn about them, the more interesting they become. One thing that surprises a lot of people is that honey bees are able to fly as far as five miles every day in search of food. Bumble bees tend not to fly as far and won’t usually go any further than a mile from the nest.