Last Updated on July 14, 2021
In this article, we look at the rather fascinating question “how long do bees live without a hive?”. We have all seen a sad lost bee stuck in a car window and released her. And she just buzzes around the car because she is so far from home she is lost. How long do bees live without food? What happens to lost bees? When do bees go back to their hive? Hold onto your seat while we delve into this and share some factoids about bees.
How Long Do Bees Live Without A Hive?
This is a complicated question with many answers. We will look at a few answers here:
If it is cold, they can survive outdoors for a very short time. They become too cold to fly, and then they will crawl around on the ground, and eventually starve to death. If you wish to save a cold bee, get a bottle, use a spoon to put the bee in the bottle. Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in two tablespoons of water.
Put this on a small piece of sponge and drop it in the bottle. Place the lid on the bottle. Find someplace warm for the bottle. When you see the bee flying around in the bottle she is good to go. Go outside, open the bottle and let her go home.
In other words, if we ask ourselves how long do bees live without a hive, we need to ask – is this with a kind caring human with sugar water and a bottle, or without? With the human – quite long. Without – a few hours and then dead.
Often bees can get attracted to lights at night, and then they buzz around the light all night and run out of energy. The exhausted bee will just sit on the ground looking sad. Follow the above feeding procedure as per cold bees and let the bees go home.
Learn more about: How Long Can A Hive Be Queenless?
How Long Can A Bee Theoretically Live Outside A Hive If It Is Not Cold Or Starving?
In warm weather, a bee can theoretically decide to be a solitary bee wandering from flower to flower and drinking nectar and just live a free, hive-free life. We must remember that a bee is a social animal. She actually needs the pheromonal input of her hive – the queen and other worker pheromones are part of her overall well-being. Without these pheromones, her body will undergo changes.
Eventually, she develops ovaries and starts to have a different smell. If she does get lonely and goes back to her hive, or another hive, she will get killed by the guards at the entrance. She now smells funny and they think she is up to no good trying to come into the hive and disrupt the social order.
How Long Do Bees Live Without Food?
Bees have very high metabolic rates when flying, nearly 10 times that of a human running a race. A bee has enough food before a flight to allow her to travel 6 to 10 miles at a speed of about 20mph. This allows them to fly in the wind and other factors that cause increased energy usage to fly a distance.
If a bee has exhausted her food supply, she will fall to the ground, cool down, and crawl around for a day or two before starving to death. If you find a bee and feel the urge to save her follow the bee feeding tips above in this article.
A bee is quite resourceful. If she is given a little help, she will find her way home, or find a flower to top up her energy levels and then fly home.
How Can A Bee Get Lost?
Sometimes beekeepers move hives long distances. Bees may get blown off the hives as they are transported. Some bees may have flown away when the hives were loaded, and come back to a missing home. Bees can get trapped in vehicles. Then the driver notices and stops and lets the bee out. There are many ways bees can get lost.
What Happens To Lost Bees?
Lost bees buzz around and are basically very lost. Sometimes, they will go to a flower, fill up with nectar and pollen, and go to a new hive they find. Normally the guards of that hive will smell that they are not from that hive and try to kill them. They can act really sad and pathetic and if they pull it off they will be allowed into their new home.
More often than not, a lost bee will just buzz around for a few hours and eventually die, or get eaten by a bird.
Learn more about: Do Yellow Jackets Kill Honeybees
When Do Bees Go Back To Their Hive?
Bees go home when their job is done. A scout bee will venture out looking for flowers, then go home and tell her sisters where the flower area. A forager will go and visit the flowers a scout finds and work until they are dry of nectar. Propolis foragers will likewise source propolis and go home when they have enough. Water gathers are the quickest in their flights, sometimes performing fifteen to twenty trips an hour.
As it starts to get dark, bees can find it more difficult to navigate as they use the Sun for navigation. At sunset, most of the bees will be home. On a warm summer’s day, a few stragglers can buzz in until later in the evening. So it is relatively safe to say that bees will return home at sunset.
However, nature is a confusing place. I have seen when certain Eucalyptus species are flowering close to my hives that the bees will fly 24 hours a day. This is backed up by science. It is safe to say that bees will go back to their hive if they cannot fetch stuff outside their hive.
Notes On Feeding Bees:
We may be tempted to feed a bee honey when they look sick or tired. This is not a good idea. Honey often contains the spores of deadly bee pathogens. If you feed a bee honey, she will take these spores back to her hive and make all the bees sick.
The best kindness feed for a bee is a little bit of sugar water. It does not need to be strong. Bees like a 10% sugar solution.
Even if you are kind, a bee may sting you. They just don’t really understand what is going on, so don’t be offended if you help a bee and she stings you. The same happens when we help crack-heads – you can get thanked or stabbed. Helping has risks associated. Use a spoon to move the bees around. It takes skill to move a bee by hand.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends who care about bees. The more bees we save, the better we will all bee.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.