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Rain and the Bees


There is an artical in this month BBKA news - Arrived this morning Called Rain and Bees.

So I did some reading and found some interesting articles:-


Rain check
Honeybees’ foraging efforts vary according to a number of factors, including the time of day, food availability, and colony size. Researchers at Jiangxi Agricultural University in Nanchang, China, have now shown that bees may also adjust their schedules according to the weather forecast. The findings were published late last year (December 15, 2015) in Insect Science.

The researchers attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to worker bees in three colonies, and then monitored their comings and goings through the hive entrance over the next 34 days. They found that bees spent longer periods out of the hive and worked later into the afternoon on days preceding rainy weather than on days preceding sunny weather. In other words, the weather of the following day determined the bees’ current foraging behavior.

In their paper, the authors suggested that the honeybees might be sensing and responding to temperature and humidity changes forecasting rainstorms, and foraging so as to maintain productivity accordingly. But Gene Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told New Scientist that this behavior would be unexpected, since honeybees are hoarding animals and therefore should not need to build up food stores for rainy weather.

Future work, the authors wrote, might address “what factors in the weather system are perceived and how bees communicate the need for behavioral changes to the whole colony.”


This seems like counter intuitive thinking. If they are hoarding creatures, then a rain storm would absolutely trigger more intense hoarding if they were able to sense it. Just because they can sense it will rain does not mean they will be able to sense for how long it will rain. Not to mention rain washes out pollen and nectar so even the day following a rain will be less productive.


I have a slightly different question.

We got rain today and yesterday the bees put more weight in the hive than any day I have seen since putting scales on them a month ago.

So it was overcast most of the morning then rain around noon time. I can tell by the scales that they did not forage mich in the morning because there was no drop in weight. It then cleared up and got sunny. When I got home they were foraging pretty intensely. I could see the weight drop from the foragers leaving. They were hitting my birdsfoot in the pastures pretty hard. We then had a quick storm come through. This evening I have been watching the weights and they are much lighter tonight then normal. It looks as though the foragers didn’t make it back.

So I am wondering how many of the foragers didn’t make it back? And will they come back in the morning once they dry off? Or will many be lost from not making it back?


Hey @Plutoman15 I just noticed your interesting post & moved it into the GBC category so others would see it too :wink:

I see it was a couple weeks ago now, but did you end up with any more observations?


It may well be that some didn’t make it back, but they also could have eaten some of their stores. Maybe the nectar and pollen got washed out for the day.


I’m sure that high winds cause lots of bee losses. A mackerel fisherman who fishes close to shore at times told me that in a certain area he always does well when bees (& orange butterflies) turn up on his boat to rest. They get blown offshore by strong southwesters. I’ve had butterflies turn up onto my boat 30 miles out to sea.


that’s a sad thought Jeff- poor bees lost at sea… I guess some fish get a juicy little meal though.


Honey-fed mackerel, how awesome is that? :smile:


Still not sure if bees get lost in a sudden rain or maybe they have to wait to dry off and then fly home?

One thing I know for sure is any rain in a day pretty much guarrentees no honey that day. This rain we have been geting everyday for 2 week has killed honey production. The hive weight has been going down down down. I think most is just drying the honey but some is getting consumed.

The next 3-4 days is sunny and dry so hopefully honey starts coming in again.


I think the answer is… it depends. :blush:

If the rain is 30 mins or so, they likely make it home. If it is several hours and lasts into dark, they probably don’t.

The reason for this is, that bees eat before they leave the hive. But they only eat enough to make a one way trip to the place they intend to forage, plus a little bit spare. Then they have to find enough nectar to make it back home again. If they get caught out by weather, they pay the ultimate price. :cry: They can’t stay warm enough alone for a long period to survive overnight. Obviously there will be exceptions, but this is the general rule from what I have read.