You Ask, We Answer: Can Bees Fly in the Rain?

Monday, July 27, 2015
Honey bee on top of a wet flower

By Dick Rogers, Principal Scientist / Entomologist, Bayer Bee Care Center

 

We received a question on Twitter recently about the impact that rain has on the ability of bees to pollinate crops. The tweet noted that it had been raining every day in Ohio, thus making it difficult for the bees to get their work done.

 

Can bees fly in the rain? In DreamWorks’s animated Bee Movie, character Barry B. Benson, a honey bee (voice of Jerry Seinfeld), gets caught out of the hive during a rain storm. Two large rain droplets pound him off of his flight course, and he is forced to seek shelter through an open apartment window. Of course, everyone knows that worker honey bees are females, right? So, although the gender of the bees in this movie is inaccurate, the seeking shelter from rain part is real.

 

Animated films often play a bit loosely with the facts, and some of the Bee Movie’s bee facts are no exception. But the movie’s statement that bees can’t fly in the rain, as it turns out, is pretty accurate. Honey bees, and flying insects in general, do not fly in certain conditions of rain. Mist, for example, can easily cover a bee and interfere with its flight aerodynamics. Bee flight muscles typically beat 12,000 times per minute, and mist can impede these wing beats. In addition, water can accumulate on the bee’s hairy body, becoming a weight issue.

 

In heavy rain, such as that faced by Barry in the Bee Movie, large droplets can hit a bee in flight and knock it out of the air similar to being hit by a blast from a water cannon. In addition, rain clouds can block the sun and may interfere with bee navigation, as well as reducing solar radiation, which can help heat up flight muscles. The coolness of the rain water also can lower the bee’s body temperature and impede activity, including flight.

 

If a bee is out and a rain shower pops up, it will seek shelter and return to the hive later. Or if bees are already in the hive, they will stay put until a break in the rain and all conditions are suitable for flight.

 

Interesting fact: Firefighters use a wall of mist to control bee flight and protect rescue workers when bees are spilled on highways when trucks transporting hives of bees for pollination accidently tip over.

 

Thanks so much for all of the great bee questions and concern shown by so many. If you have a question about bees, submit it below or tweet us at @Bayer4CropsUS.

 

 

 

 

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