Can bees swim?

Like most living things, bees also need water because they can get thirsty while foraging for food after traveling far away from the hive [1]. They also collect water for the colony from various sources that may sometimes lead them to go to the water sources along the way. 

When bees fall into the water, can bees get out of it alive by swimming?

Bees technically can’t swim. However, they have a unique way of escaping the water if ever they fall into it and avoid drowning. Scientists discovered that the top of the bees’ wings don’t get wet, while the bottom of the wings can, so they can’t quickly fly out. Luckily, they can beat their wings very fast to create tiny ripples or waves that they can ride, like surfing or gliding, until they reach the edge of the water. Unfortunately, it costs too much energy to flap their wings continuously, so they will eventually drown if the border is too far.

Now, let us learn more about bees and if they can swim or not.

Can bees swim?

beekeeper stacking beehives by a river

Bees (only the females) are very hard-working. They do most of the things in the hive, like building and repairing the hive, protecting it from predators, nursing bee larvae, and collecting food like nectar and pollen from flowers and also water [2].

They can also travel as far as 8 miles (12 kilometers). However, they usually look for foraging sites within a two-mile radius to collect food. During this time, bees will also get thirsty, so they will need to find water sources where they can drink. 

When drinking, bees need to stand in a dry area, so when they try to stand on an unstable surface, they can fall into the water like a puddle or pool, where they can drown if they don’t do anything. 

Unfortunately for bees, they don’t swim. So, once they fall into the water, they have a higher chance of drowning.

To learn more about bees, you should also read Does vinegar kill carpenter bees? and Can bees sense fear?

Will bees drown?

If a bee falls or lands in a pool of water, one side of its wings will get wet and heavy, so it won’t be able to recover fast enough to fly, and it will remain in the water. If they don’t escape fast enough, they will certainly drown.

However, recent findings about bees from a bee research study by the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in Pasadena found that bees that fall in the water can create ripples or tiny waves in the water that they can use to glide or surf toward the edge [3].

Bees in the water can flap their wings fast enough and pushes down the water to create waves that will propel them forward in a process called hydrofoiling. Unfortunately, bees can only flap their wings for about 10 minutes before they tire out and eventually drown. 

Can bees fly out of the water if they fall into it?

beekeeper harvesting honey

The flight of the bees has baffled scientists for a long time and has only recently been scientifically explained. Aside from flapping their wings with an incredible speed of up to 230 times per second, they will also need to flap their wings at a specific angle to produce a small tornado-like phenomenon called a leading edge vortex that helps them in their flight [4].

Since the bee’s wings have a top side that is hydrophobic or remains dry all the time and a bottom side that can get wet and stick to the water, once they fall into the water, they won’t be able to create the angle they require to fly, and also because their wings become heavy. 

This means that the only way for bees to get out of the water is by gliding to the edge of the water.

What can you do to prevent bees from drowning?

Bees are intelligent little creatures [5], and they can remember to locate food and water sources where they can return again. Once they find a suitable location, they will do their waggle dance to communicate with other bees [6].

While you can’t control bees where they must collect water, you can direct them to safer water sources you prepared. Make sure that the drinking area is accessible to bees. It should also be shallow enough so they won’t drown. You can also add salt to make it more attractive to them. 

To expand your bee-knowledge, you should take a look at Will wasp spray kill bees? and Can you eat bees?


When bees have to drink water, they need to land and stand on a dry surface before they can drink freely. However, they can fall into the water while trying to reach some to drink. 

When they fall, they will not be able to fly out of the water because their wings are wet. It is important to realize that bees can’t swim or stand on the surface of the water like some other insects, so they can drown. 

Researchers found that while floating on water, bees can move their wings fast enough to create tiny waves or ripples on the surface of the water, which they can ride to reach the edge of the water. However, they can only do this for about 10 minutes before they expend their energy and die.


[1] – Casey, C. (2018, February 12). Bees need water: Establish water sources in late winter to keep them out of the pool in summer. ANR Blogs. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

[2] – Worker bee. (2022, January 13). In Wikipedia.

[3] – California Institute of Technology. (2019, November 19). When stuck in water, bees create a wave and hydrofoil atop it. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 5, 2022 from 

[4] – Christopher M. Jernigan. (2017, October 24). How Do Bees Fly?. ASU – Ask A Biologist. Retrieved October 5, 2022 from

[5] – Guardian News and Media. (2022, July 16). ‘bees are really highly intelligent’: The insect IQ tests causing a buzz among scientists. The Guardian. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

[6] – Waggle dance. (2022, September 7). In Wikipedia.