During the night and your lights at home are turned on, you sometimes notice insects flying and circling around light bulbs, particularly on your porch, which is often annoying. Though this specific insect behavior is not always noticeable in other types of insects, it is curious to know whether bees that are commonly seen during the day also display a similar attraction toward lights.
This begs the question, are bees attracted to light?
Bees have a natural positive phototaxic response to light which means they are attracted to light and will go in its direction when they see it. However, bees usually are already resting during the night to ever notice the artificial lights in their surroundings. Honeybees that were studied were found to use phototaxis when they go to the foraging site and on their way back to the hive. On the other hand, insects that move away from light display negative phototaxic behavior.
Now, let us learn more about the behaviors of bees and their response to light.
Are bees attracted to light?
Nature has a great way of using its surroundings to its advantage. One particular ability that many animals exhibit is called phototaxis. Phototaxis is the tendency or the ability of various species to move towards (positive phototaxis) or away (negative phototaxis) a light source , whether it be natural or artificial.
Many flying insects are known to be attracted to light, like moths, grasshoppers, and different types of flies, which means that they display positive phototaxic responses or are attracted to light sources . On the other hand, animals and insects that are known to move away from a light source display negative phototaxis.
Bees are known to have a natural response of attraction towards light or what is commonly referred to as positive phototaxis in biology. Bees also use this capability when going to their foraging sites and back to the colony . The older worker bees or the foragers are also known to display more phototaxic responses than younger bees.
Honeybees, in particular, are used as an ideal model for many researches and studies since they have an intricate visual system.
Flowers are also found to emit UV lights that guide bees toward them, helping them in their pollination process. That is also the reason why bees prefer blue and violet-colored flowers compared to other flower colors .
Are bees attracted to artificial light during the night?
While we already established that bees are attracted to light, which they also use in navigating when going to and from the hive towards their specific foraging sites, it is still important to remind you that bees are primarily diurnal or only active during the day and are mostly resting during the night, with a few exemptions for the nocturnal bees.
However, if bees are still active during the night, they would probably be moving toward artificial light sources, similar to many insects flying toward the porchlight.
Bees are also found to be attracted specifically to blue fluorescent lights, which are more common house lights than before. This specific light color is particularly attractive to bees because of its photoreceptors.
Bees, like humans, also have three photoreceptors in their eyes or have trichromatic vision. For humans, our three photoreceptors are red, green, and blue. For bees, they also have green and blue photoreceptors, with the third one being ultraviolet or UV, which is in the invisible light spectrum and is unseen by humans .
The bees that are attracted to artificial lights during the night are also found to be generally the worker bees who lost their way back to the hive and the unsuccessful drone bees that were kicked out from the hive after a failed nuptial flight. They usually go to artificial lights to get heat and not freeze to death during the night .
Are bees attracted to bug zappers?
A bug zapper is a helpful tool for getting rid of annoying insects from going inside your home because they tend to attract and also zap them to kill them by electrocuting. These electronic devices use UV lights that are within the attractive lights of many insects that lure them into the trap.
Since bees are also more attracted to UV lights, in particular, they can also be attracted to go into it, potentially killing them.
However, since most bees are not active during the night and are mostly resting in their respective nests, bug zappers are mostly not a threat to the day bees. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for nocturnal bees that may be victimized by these bug zappers.
Do artificial lights have an effect on bees?
As already mentioned earlier, not all bees are active during the day or are diurnal. There are also other species of bees that are more active during the night or are nocturnal. These bees also need food, such as nectar and pollen from flowers that are more available with less competition during the night. In effect, they also pollinate the flowers that they go to.
Unfortunately, nocturnal bees and their role in pollination are also threatened because of modernization, the increasing number of areas where artificial light sources are used, and the fast-losing number of natural habitats of bees in exchange for human development.
Researchers also found that there is a 62% loss in nocturnal pollinators, including nocturnal bees, because of the artificial lights at night. This discovery indicates that the flowers that are pollinated by these insects are facing a serious threat .
How to get rid of bees attracted to light?
When you suddenly find bees flying toward your porch light and want to avoid any stinging threats in your house, you may want to try some of these.
1. Change the color of your porch light to a less attractive color for bees.
Bees particularly like the color blue fluorescent lights but are also attracted to white or yellow lights that emit ultraviolet light, which is part of the three photoreceptors in their eyes.
So, if you want to lessen the incidents of bees coming near your homes, you may want to change the color of your porch lights to a less attractive color to them. You may try using colors that are dimmer or colors outside their preference.
2. Turn off your light and see if they will go away.
Since it is the light that attracted the bees in the first place, turning them off may also lead them to go away somewhere else with a brighter light. You may take a few minutes before turning them on again to ensure that they are really gone, or you may risk the chance of them coming back.
3. Locate if there are bee hives nearby or bee nests on the ground.
Prevention is better than cure. This means that the attracted bees are more likely to be living closer to your home or are even in your front yard. So, it is best to check for any potential hives for social bees, like honeybees hanging in trees or some spaces, and any potential ground nests by ground bees.
Bees are an essential part of our ecosystem and perform the important function of pollinating various plants and flowers that are common in our plates, but part of the reason why they can do this is through a process called phototaxis.
Bees have a natural tendency to be attracted to light, also referred to as positive phototaxis, which is also common to other flying insects, like moths, grasshoppers, and flies. The opposite of positive phototaxis is negative phototaxis or those animals and insects that move away from light.
Though there is too much artificial light in our surroundings that may attract bees, it’s a good thing that they are already resting during the night and may not even notice these lights. However, this is bad news for nocturnal bees, which can still be attracted by artificial light as they try to collect food during the night.
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 – Bees Love Blue Fluorescent Light, and not just any wavelength will do. Life at OSU. (2018, June 18). Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/bees-love-blue-fluorescent-light-and-not-just-any-wavelength-will-do
 – Zhe Chen, Chang-Qiu Liu, Hang Sun, Yang Niu, The ultraviolet colour component enhances the attractiveness of red flowers of a bee-pollinated plant, Journal of Plant Ecology, Volume 13, Issue 3, June 2020, Pages 354–360, https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtaa023
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