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It’s no secret that bees are incredibly hard-working creatures. Where do you think the term as busy as a bee came from? But it isn’t just about collecting pollen, maintaining the hive, and making honey. Bees really go the distance in terms of flying. But how far do bees travel from their hives?
How far a bee will travel depends on its species. However, honey bees will typically fly between one and two miles from the hive. Although, it isn’t uncommon for them to travel as far as five miles in search of food!
This might seem like a long way when you consider the small size of a bee but when you think about it, they’re well equipped for the journey.
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But these are amazing creatures that could if they wanted to, travel up to five miles when they’re on the hunt for nectar. They’ll really only do this when it’s absolutely necessary as flying too far will exhaust them. That said, bees are well equipped for flight so they’re perfectly capable of going the distance when the situation calls for it.
Even if a single bee only travels one mile each day, you then have to think about how far the whole colony might fly each day. In a healthy hive, you might expect to find around 60,000 bees. If each of these flies one mile every day, that’s 60,000 miles covered by them all. That’s two and a half times around the world!
In addition to this, think about how fast a bee can fly. When a worker bee first leaves the hive, it’s possible for it to fly up to 20 miles per hour. This is normally when the bee is headed out in search of food. When it returns carrying its nectar and pollen, the flight speed slows down a little to around 12 miles per hour. But that’s still very impressive for such a little creature!
How far a bee flies will depend on the type of bee you’re talking about. Moreover, solitary bees have different flight habits to those that belong to a colony.
A honey bee will typically fly between one and six kilometres (one and four miles) when in search of food. However, there have been some reports of honey bees going up to 20km, although we’re not entirely sure that this would be something you’d see regularly.
That said, the conditions play a very important role in how far a honey bee is able to fly. Honey bees can only fly in optimal conditions; when it’s warm, they’ll go further. In fact, the ideal temperature for honey bees to fly is 65ºF.
If the temperature drops below around 55ºF, during winter, then the honey bees will no longer actively forage. What’s more, at this time of year, food sources are much more sparse so honey bees will usually go into a dormant state inside the hive. If they do have to go out, they’ll stay as local to the hive as possible to conserve what little energy they have.
Bumble bees, much like honey bees, will also travel to find food if they need to. These bees live in smaller nests. Where honey bees live in colonies that go into the tens of thousands, a large bumble bee nest might only contain around 400 individuals.
While they are happy to forage a little further from home, bumble bees will stay local when they can. Typically bumble bees will go no less than 625 meters from their nest unless there isn’t a food source.
This is because they don’t have massive energy reserves so it’s important for them to use their energy efficiently and staying close by is ideal for this.
A lot of bees don’t belong to a colony and navigate their way through life as solitary bees. There isn’t a lot of research on how far solitary bees fly but it’s generally thought that they don’t go as far as they have less energy.
Normally, you wouldn’t expect a solitary bee to travel much further than 2.4km, and that’s at a push. That said, there was one bee, the Euglossine Bee that was recorded to have flown 23km from its home.
Bees are pretty intelligent animals and they won’t just set off on an unnecessarily long flight for no reason. Bees need to conserve energy and there’s always a risk of the conditions changing which could make it difficult or even impossible for the bee to continue flying.
However, when bees are in search of food, they may need to travel further if there isn’t a food source within the vicinity of a hive.
While most bees fly between one and two miles from the hive, they’re able to go up to four or five miles when they need to. But it’s important to keep in mind that this will drain the bee of its energy reserves and this is often not worth it for the amount of food they’ll be able to collect.
If you own a hive, or several, and want to plant flowers for your bees, we would suggest planting them close by so that your winged friends don’t need to wear themselves out.
We see bees everywhere but have you ever wondered where they came from? You might be observing a bee in your garden that has come from a couple of miles down the road. But they’re only small so surely they can’t fly too far which leaves us wondering how far do bees travel from their hives?
Surprisingly, bees can fly up to five miles in search of food although they’ll only do this if there isn’t a viable food source within a mile or two.
How far they fly also depends on the species and the individual bee. But one thing is for sure, these creatures are anything but lazy when it comes to foraging!