Buzzing in the Dark : Do Bees Fly at Night?

The answer to the question ‘Do bees fly at night?’ is more complicated than you think. While most of us are familiar with diurnal bees, such as honey and bumblebees that only fly during the day, some uncommon native bees in West Auckland can fly in low light or even darkness.

Let’s dive into some interesting facts about night-flying bees. 

Diurnal Bees 

Diurnal bees are the most common type of bee. These types of bees, such as honey and bumblebees, will typically only fly during the daylight hours, and at night they will usually be drawn towards any light sources they may find. This is why you may often hear them buzzing around your porch light in the evening! 

Night Flying Bees 

While not as common as diurnal bees, there are some types of bees which can fly during low light or darkness.

Some tropical nocturnal bees have a highly developed vision which enables them to see in darkness and therefore allows them to fly at night.

Furthermore, four to seven bee families have been recorded flying in darkness or low light, including Apidae, Andrenidae, Colletidae and Halictidae

Plant Pollination Competition 

Another interesting fact about night-flying bees is that some species become nocturnal due to reduced pollination competition from other insects.

For example, many plants bloom exclusively at night or generate nectar both day and night where nocturnal and crepuscular (twilight) bees live – this means less competition for these nighttime pollinators!

Yet, it should be emphasised that even though nighttime bees can fly at night, they struggle to land accurately on flowers due to the lack of available light!  

How Do Bee Eyes Work?

Bees have five eyes, two of which are large and compound. These compound eyes are made up of hundreds of microscopic lenses, known as facets, that enable the bees to see a wide range of colors and shapes from across the electromagnetic spectrum, including UV light that is invisible to humans.

 Each lens only sees a small portion of the scene, but when merged with the others, it forms a full view of the bee. Bees can see between 300 and 650 nanometers depending on the species and their environment; red is not within their visible spectrum.

Additionally, they have special photoreceptors in their antennae that help them sense differences in light intensity, allowing them to quickly sense the edges of objects.

The Three Basic Eyes 

Bees have three simple eyes located on the top of their head. These essential eyes help them to take in light and use it to see where they want to go. They also allow them to detect movement, which helps them stay away from predators or find food sources faster.

However, these three eyes don’t provide detailed information about their surroundings; they simply tell the bee if something is moving. 

The Two Compound Eyes 

In addition to the three basic eyes, bees also have two compound eyes. These are on either side of their head and are made of thousands of tiny lenses called ommatidia.

Each ommatidium takes in a small amount of light and combines it with information from its neighbouring ommatidia to create a single image for the bee. Each eye creates a mosaic-like image that gives the bee an accurate picture of its environment. 

Nocturnal Bee Vision 

Most bees fly during the day, but some nocturnal bees have more prominent eyes that allow them to see better in low-light conditions. These night-flying bees cannot rely on their eyesight alone to find their homes, so they must utilise their intellect, floral fragrances, and optical adaptations for low-light environments to locate host flowers for nectar gathering at night.

Unfortunately, artificial lighting is luring evening pollinators away from floral resources, according to experts at of Behavioral Ecology. This could result in lower yields for crops like apples and cherries, which rely heavily on night-foraging pollinators like bees for pollination services. 


Bees are amazing creatures with a lot to teach us about business and life. Their ability to fly in low light or even darkness is an inspiring example of how we can push ourselves to reach new heights. 

The fact that they have such a highly developed vision also reminds us of the importance of paying attention to detail. To learn more about bees and their valuable lessons, check out our articles on local honey and what Bees Teach us.

Sources of Information (2022, February 2). Do Bees Fly At Night? | Which Bees Fly At Night & Why? BeesWiki.

Baird, E., Fernandez, D. C., Wcislo, W. T., & Warrant, E. J. (2015). Flight control and landing precision in the nocturnal bee Megalopta is robust to large changes in light intensity. Frontiers in Physiology6

Kelber, A., Warrant, E. J., Pfaff, M., Wallén, R., Theobald, J. C., Wcislo, W. T., & Raguso, R. A. (2005). Light intensity limits foraging activity in nocturnal and crepuscular bees. Behavioral Ecology17(1), 63–72.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research is the Crown Research Institute for our land. (2022, November 21). Manaaki Whenua.

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