The honey bee forager shown below was asleep in my garden this morning. Hanging on to a cold and dewy cosmos, she looked dead. But a couple of flashes from my camera brought her around, and after a few minutes, she flew away. Maybe she just wasn’t into boudoir-type photos.
Usually it’s the males
Wild bees of many types regularly sleep in flowers, but I seldom see honey bees do it. In many bee species, it is the males that stay outside at night, sometimes in large groups called leks. This happens because once the males emerge from their nest, they have no place to go. They spend their days hanging around nesting sites looking for newly emerged females and perhaps defending their territory. When not girl-chasing, they feed on nectar until the sun goes down and then hole up for the night.
Around here, I often see Melissodes males curled up with their heads buried between the petals of a thistle. I also see wool carder bees grasping the small flowers of a lemon balm or peppermint. Leafcutting bees will sometimes spend the night in a cosmos or a sunflower. I’ve also seen small bees, such as Ceratina, bury themselves head first in a blossom.
Other common flower sleepers are bumble bees, both male and female. In the fall especially, young queens preparing themselves for winter can be seen using flowers for a bed. Here in my garden, I’ve seen huge bumble bee queens sleeping in the Autumn Joy sedum or clasping onto dahlias.
Why not go home?
I’m not sure why a honey bee would spend the night outside unless she got too cold to return home or unless she lost her way once the sun went down. I tried to watch the one I found this morning, but she took off like a shot once she decided to go. Based on her exuberance, she didn’t seem ill or distressed, so it makes me wonder why she didn’t return home last evening.
Only occasionally do I see a honey bee outside at night, but if you get up early and stroll through your own flowers, you are likely to see one clutching a petal and covered with dew.
Honey Bee Suite