honey bee myths

Honey bee myth: bees don’t sting at night

A worker honey bee can sting whenever she wants—including the wee hours of night. Nevertheless, the rumor that bees can’t sting at night persists, and I hear it frequently.

It is probably true that not many people get stung at night. But the reason is simple: bees are home at night and so are you. The chance of a human/bee interaction is small when all parties are home watching television and drinking beer.

If you decide to bother your bees at night, they will not hesitate to defend their hive. However, in areas with cool evening temperatures, the honey bees will often stay in their cluster and not fly out at you. But it is the temperature—not the darkness—that is keeping them docile and you sting-free.

Queens, too, sting in the dark. An established queen will often sting a developing virgin queen before she can hatch—or just after. All this stinging and fighting takes place in the deep dark recesses of the hive with no candles, light bulbs, flashlights, or LEDs—not even any bioluminescence.

So there you have it. Although you might like it to be otherwise, the business end of a female honey bee is never compromised by the cover of darkness.

Honey Bee Suite


  • I was sitting in living room. I sat nite Sunday morning noticed a shadow. In closer inspection I noticed it was a queen bee. I caught her set her free. Is there any chance she’ll return?

  • At specific time every night a honey bee comes in my room …..even all window door r shut….is that normal sign that bee at night wander in mah room.

  • One morning I found about 8 dead bees on my patio, it was a couple days later and we were still finding dead bees outside the house. Since that time I have had a single bee in my house after dark on 3 separate occasions. I’m concerned, my husband is in the process of getting bee shots for his allergy to bee stings. I wonder how they are getting into our house when all the doors and windows are closed and have been closed, it’s just all of a sudden a bee is flying around the lights in the kitchen. I have never had this happen to us before, could there be a hive in the fireplace, I don’t see or hear any sign that this could be true. Can someone out there help me to understand all this. Could there be a logical explanation?

    • Diane,

      Sometimes native bees nest in the window frames and get in that way. I have vinyl-framed windows which you would think could keep out the bees, but they come in anyway. Dozens come in for a few weeks in the spring, and then it stops.

  • Hello,

    I have a smaller hive in my window store box on the 1st floor for the 2nd year. They are sometimes dead bees
    in front of the window and now there is a plenty of pollen balls. I have bought a little box built special for bees
    with wax frames and I would like to transfer them to this box. I thought I would do it when dark outside.
    Do you know if it is possible? Does anyone know the answer? Thank you.

  • Gabriela Amsler,

    The only advantage to moving bees at night is they are all home. The biggest disadvantage to moving bees at night is THEY ARE ALL HOME!!!!

    It is FAR better to cut the hive out in the morning after they have begun to forage. Place as much of the comb in frames using rubber bands. Find the queen and catch her so she can’t get out of her new hive. Leave the new hive very close to the old location at least over night. A full day after you cut it out is even better. The foragers will find the new hive because they can smell their queen. The will rob the old location and bring it into the hive with the queen. They will spend the day cleaning up the mess and will almost all move into the hive with the queen for overnight. You can use a BeeVac to catch any who huddle in the old location the second night.

    You should close the hive door with a breathable mesh of some kind (do not plug it completely as the bees have to breathe) then move it at least 3 miles away. More than 5 miles would be better.

    They will recognize that they have been moved when they start leaving the hive the next morning.

  • I live in the 20th floor of an apartment complex and every night a few bees fly inside because of the light. If they hit the ceiling fan, do they get angry and sting me?

    Also, a bee in my room is just clinging on to the corner of a light even though it has been turned off. Should I be worried?

  • If a honey bee is away from the nest well after dark what happens to them? Do they find their way back in the morning?

  • Rusty,

    Today, I opened several hives in the afternoon to get bee samples for alcohol-wash mite counts to assess effects of recent treatment and was quickly reminded just how much more defensive they are at this time of year. It’s to such a degree that I’d be re-queening the colony if it was like this in the foraging season. They rocket off the combs immediately, go straight for the face and don’t fool around with warning-off behaviors such as head-butting. I knew they’d likely be pretty defensive so I had on the full bee suit and gloves. But even with that, a few managed to find their way under the glove cuff and two even got inside with me and popped me in the ear and neck. They seem to try much harder to sting at this time of year. And these are bees that I can work with no gloves or long sleeves, just a veil, during the foraging months. It was overcast with no wind and about 50F. Just a month ago I was taking samples for mite counts in similar conditions and didn’t experience nearly the current level of defensiveness, although I could tell they were getting cranky.

    Every year I see this same variation in defensiveness that correlates with the seasons and it makes me wonder how this is achieved. It certainly seems a useful survival trait to have a stronger defense when there’s no food to be had outside the hive. Perhaps some defensiveness genes get up-regulated according to some signal? Have you heard of anything that controls this seasonal variation in defensiveness?

    • Hi Cal,

      I too opened my hives yesterday for a brief look, just to check on stores. Not surprisingly, they were just as defensive as yours. I only wore a veil, but I got stung on the wrist, and several rode into the house on my jacket. So, yes, I think it is a time-of-the-year thing. They can’t afford to let any marauders near the colony as we go into winter.

      But how this happens is another story. I think defensiveness changes with the level of danger, and they perceive shortage and cold as danger. I’m just guessing here based on what I’ve seen. I’ll be on the lookout for a more concrete explanation because it’s a good question.

  • There is a small approx 3 inch ball hive right near my door. I see the bees going in and out. They added a new layer over night. Do you think I could just put it into a bag at night and move it elsewhere without protection?

    • Tracy,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “ball hive.” Do you mean a small cluster of bees? You say they added a new layer. Do you mean a comb or are you taking about wasps? The more I think about it, I think you may have wasps.

    • Larry,

      Since a been hive is a man-made structure built to house bees, I doubt you found one in a hole in your yard. Just saying. It sounds like you many have found a colony of bumble bees or perhaps wasps. The best way to get rid of them is to figure out what they are first. Also, you don’t say where you are, which makes it harder to guess.

  • Hi Rusty thanks for your quick response. They’re not wasps. I live in Minneapolis. They may be bumble bees. Aren’t bumble bees thick bodied and yellow and black? But these aren’t wasps. Any help is appreciated.

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