Do Bees Sleep?

Male bees gathering for the night

Male bees gathering for the night

I’ve been wondering if bees sleep since I saw all these black bees zooming about in the early evening. They seemed to be chasing each other. Then they clustered on a few stalks of grass, jostling and fighting for the good spots, until they finally settled down.
When I looked them up, I was told they were Melissodes bimaculata in a male sleeping aggregation.

They were asleep?

The short answer is yes.

According to this paper about sleep in honeybees (try your library for access to the full text), honeybees have sleep cycles. As they pass from light to deep sleep, their antennae droop, their legs relax, their body temperature drops, they get harder to rouse.

Bumble asleep on sunflower

Bumblebee asleep on sunflower

Just like this bumblebee that I found a few weeks ago, curled up on a sunflower on a sunny morning. She seemed a bit groggy as she bestirred herself, took a sip of nectar, and eventually flew away. And lately, I’ve been finding bumblebees bedding down for the night on the goldenrod.

Black bee holding on by his jaws

Black bee holding on by his jaws so he can sleep

As for the black Melissodes, they’re solitary bees. The females, having tunneled into the earth and provisioned cells for their eggs, have underground nests to sleep in. The males gather together to roost. (Apparently, lots of insects roost overnight.) Then they lock their jaws around the stems and go to sleep.

This is so cute and so weird. Next I suppose, it will turn out that they dream, too.

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5 responses to “Do Bees Sleep?

  1. It’s wonderful to explore God’s creatures in their periods of activity and rest. There’s so much harmony in all aspects of life and He proves His grace allowing those who are close to Him to discover so many mysteries of the living world, for example the way the bees behave awake and asleep.
    Congratulations to Ada and her husband for their interesting research studies and published articles.

  2. Dana, buddy, I should tell you that biologists as a group are not particularly close to God. Part of a biologist’s training is to understand that if the answer “God did it” is the first explanation that pops into her head, then she should keep looking for explanations. If you don’t believe me, google for “Kitzmiller vs Dover”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    For further reading, I am going to recommend “Campbell & Reece Biology, 7th edition” or newer. It’s a very big book. It took me six weeks just to look at the pictures.

  3. I highly enjoyed reading your article, keep on creating such interesting stuff.

  4. hi there

    i would like to know if bees follow a 7 day cycle and rest on the seventh day. i heard this somewhere and would like more facts.

  5. If bees worked six days and rested on the seventh, wouldn’t they create new worlds once a week? Talk about a Many World hypothesis!

    Seriously, bees work under the sun and sleep at night, like most of life on earth.

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