Can bees get drunk?

Bees are nature’s natural pollinators and are integral to ensuring that flowers are fertilized. In return, they get to eat the pollen and nectar from them. But sometimes, these flowers can even make bees more than just satisfied with their foraging. 

Bees can get drunk if they consume fermented nectars from flowers they forage, which can happen if the temperature becomes too hot. This phenomenon may appear comical, but it is dangerous for the bees and their colonies. It can cause accidents, getting lost on their way home, and even death due to alcohol poisoning.

bees working on a beehive

Can bees get drunk?

In 2019, the Australian Parliament Head Beekeeper, Cormac Farrell, released an unusual Twitter thread [1] after passers-by noticed a peculiar incident around the Australian Parliament House. 

The people noticed bees flying or hobbling, falling one after another, laying on the ground dead or appearing drunk – which was what was happening [2].

Bees could get drunk if they forage from flowers that have fermented nectars. Though for us humans, getting drunk can be all for fun, for the bees, intoxication can be dangerous for them and also for their colonies.

How can a bee get drunk?

Bees can get drunk and have a similar effect as what humans commonly experience, such as impaired motor function and memory processing, which is crucial for these busy insects in their everyday routine [4]. However, the way bees and humans get their alcohol can be different, usually through the fermentation of various types of food from their surroundings. 

Fermentation is a chemical process that converts starch and sugar into alcohol or acid. In the case of fermented natural sugars, there is a catch. 

For a high-sugar concentration of nectar or saps, wild yeast does not naturally multiply and breaks down the sugar to create alcohol on its own. However, suppose moisture is added to the nectar through events like rainfall and the temperature rises. In that case, the yeast can activate and ferment the sugar making an intoxicating drink for the busy bees.

Though these bees are not drinking heavy liquor, they can get drunk from various sources when they are out to forage for food. Here are some ways bees can get drunk.

1. Fermented Nectar

Honeybees go to flowers to collect pollen and nectar from them. However, during the heat of the summer, the precious nectar they collect can go bad and causes intoxication that is dangerous for them and their hives.

2. Fermented Tree Sap

Aside from fermented nectar, tree sap can also undergo fermentation and become an intoxicating concoction that is dangerous for the bees.

3. Ripe Fruit

Though bees are generally fond of getting their nourishments from nectar and pollen, they can still sometimes go for ripe fruits. These fruits can also get fermented and consumed by hard-working insects.

4.  Manmade, and chemicals in the environment

Aside from the naturally-occurring nectars, tree sap, and fruits, bees can also occasionally fall victim to alcohol poisoning from artificial sources, like beer. 

What happens if a bee gets drunk?

1. Bees can get lost and cannot return to their hive.

Honeybees and bees generally rely on sobriety to find their way back into their hives. So, when they get drunk for various reasons, their sense of direction can be hindered, and they can get lost on their way home.

2. Bees will have difficulty flying and moving.

Drunk bees can have some similarities, especially with their motor skills. For humans like us, if we are drunk, walking is difficult. For bees, it is flying, moving, and even standing still. That is why many drunken bees are commonly seen to simply fall on the ground.

3. They are denied access from their hive or even attacked by other bees.

As already mentioned, drunk bees are not only a danger to themselves but also to their colonies. Since these honeybees are not in their proper selves, they may be seen as a threat from their hives and are denied access to it. It can even be to the point of getting attacked and killed by the sober bees [3].

Another reason intoxicated bees are not allowed inside the hive is to avoid getting their honey from fermentation. If the honey is fermented, it can end the whole colony.

4. Bees can die from intoxication.

The worst-case scenario for intoxicated bees is to die from it. Unlike the threats honeybees face daily from man-made, alcohol poisoning due to fermented nectar happens naturally.

What is fermented honey?

As previously mentioned, drunk honeybees are not allowed entry to their hives by their sober peers to prevent the honey from getting spoiled. When this happens, the bees’ food source for the winter will be threatened. 

However, there are still times when honey becomes fermented. There are three major components for honey to be fermented. The first is the sugary honey, made primarily from glucose and fructose. The next is yeast, which often naturally comes from flowers.

However, the first two components of sugar and yeast are not yet enough to ferment the honey. A third component is also needed, which is water or moisture. 

Finally, if these three components are present, the only thing missing is an activation agent, which in this case is heating. So, if the temperature is hot, honey will likely be fermented [6].

Fermented honey may not be suitable for bees, but we can use them for our food. Just make sure to boil the fermented honey to kill the yeast.


Bees are essential in the environment to ensure that flowers are pollinated, but on rare occasions, the flowers bees forage to collect their pollen, and nectar can make them drunk. Fermentation of nectar usually happens due to hot temperatures and can also occur to tree sap and fruits. If bees consume alcohol and get drunk, it can cause accidents, impair their motor skills, have difficulty with navigation, and even cause death.


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