Bee Behavior in Rain: Where Do Bees Seek Shelter?

Where Do Bees Go When It Rains?

Bees play a vital role as pollinators for many wild and agricultural plants. Their hairy bodies are highly adapted for gathering and transporting pollen between flowers as they forage. However, rain presents a clear impediment to bee flight and pollen collection. When inclement weather strikes, where do bees take shelter to avoid getting soaked and battered by raindrops? Understanding bee behavior during rain provides insight into their survival strategies and relations with the environment.

This article explores the various ways different bee species respond to precipitation, including:

  • Returning to the nest or hive
  • Seeking natural shelters
  • Entering states of inactivity
  • Using thermoregulation and grouping
  • Variations across bee types and climates
  • Impacts of rain on colony food supplies
  • Evolution of rain-avoidance behaviors

While bees dislike precipitation, they have evolved a number of solutions to safely endure showers and thunderstorms. Their techniques provide examples of insect adaptation and resilience in the face of environmental challenges.

beekeeper taking out beehive

Returning to the Nest or Hive

For most bee species, the first recourse is to immediately return to the central nest or hive when rainfall begins:

  • Solitary ground-nesting bees descend into underground burrows, plugging the entrance behind them.
  • Bumblebees and honeybees retreat into their enclosed hives which provide insulation and protection.
  • Leafcutter bees enter their water-resistant nests made of leaf sections lined with hydrophobic resins.
  • Carpenter bees and mason bees hang out securely inside their snug nesting holes and tunnels carved into wood, stems, and rocky crevices.

Having a dependable shelter to readily take cover in is key to weathering rain events. Bees often hunker down in these nests for hours or days until precipitation passes.

Seeking Other Natural Shelters

If too far from the central nest when rain begins, bees exploit other natural shelters:

  • Underneath dense vegetation, logs, rocks, and in caves
  • Inside thick grass, underbrush, or crop cover
  • Under overhangs, eaves, porches, sheds, and cabins
  • Within tree hollows and inside manmade structures and drain pipes

Essentially, any covered space that gets bees out of the exposed elements will suffice temporarily to take refuge until the worst weather passes by.

bees landing on a beehive

Entering Inactive States

Some bees are able to modulate their bodily activity and metabolism to enter dormant-like states:

  • Their flight muscles generate heat to raise body temperature and dry themselves off.
  • Alternating muscle contractions and relaxation cycles excess moisture off their wings and body.
  • Reduced activity states allow bees to conserve energy.
  • Tucking their head and limbs in traps warmth and seals the body from water entry.

Bees sustain themselves through inclement conditions until they can safely resume normal active behavior.

Thermoregulation and Grouping

In addition to inactivity, social bees use thermoregulation:

  • Honeybees huddle together into a carefully arranged ball to generate heat. The dense cluster enables the shared warmth to keep the group dry.
  • Bumblebees often gather together in their nests shielded by insulating thatch and wax. Piling together raises temperatures enough to repel chill and moisture.
  • Even solitary bees may congregate together in aggregations of up to thousands of individuals to create warm, dry refuges.

Social cooperation provides a survival advantage against the elements.

bees harvesting nectar from a flower

Variations Across Bee Species and Climates

Differences in rain responses occur:

  • Tropical stingless bees of Central/South America seem unaffected by rain owing to the brief daily downpours in their habitat. They continue foraging apace.
  • Orchid bees appear more annoyed than deterred by rain. They use olfactory rather than visual cues to find flowers.
  • Desert-dwelling bees simply retreat into their nests to wait out rare rainfalls in already moisture-deprived regions.
  • Bees in temperate climates are most vulnerable requiring well-developed rain avoidance strategies.

Local environmental conditions shape specific bee adaptations. But seeking shelter predominates universally.

Impacts on Food Supplies

Inclement weather curtails foraging and food stores:

  • Pollen gets heavily depleted since ongoing rainfall prevents replenishment. This jeopardizes larvae and future generations.
  • Honey stores drop slowly but steadily as adults continue consuming sugar during confinement.
  • Inadequate nutrition and chill stress may suppress immune function and increase susceptibility to pathogens.
  • Short rainfalls of a day or two have minimal impact. But extended heavy precipitation of a week or more creates deficits requiring urgent foraging.

Bees balance their waterlogged predicament against growing nutritional needs. Light misty rain merely annoys them, while heavy downpours present survival challenges.

beekeeper cutting honey sheets

Evolution of Rain Avoidance Behaviors

Natural selection over time drove the development of the beneficial bee behaviors that combat rain:

  • Bees that sought shelter reproduced more successfully as conditions protected them and their nests.
  • Thermoregulation and social clustering offered advantage through shared effort and warmth generation.
  • Reduced activity states allowed bees to persist longer through inclement conditions using minimal energy.
  • Larger fat stores and more rapid return to nests became favored in adverse weather.
  • Specialized water-repellent nest construction materials like resin helped keep progeny and food dry.

Through incremental adaptations, bees became well equipped to hunker down and wait out rainfall while minimizing detriment to overall fitness.


While bees strongly prefer fair weather for peak foraging, they have evolved a suite of effective strategies to survive rains. Their specialized nests offer primary protection, but bees also exploit natural shelters, group together, generate heat, and reduce water exposure by entering temporary dormant-like states. Species and regional climate differences fine-tune exact responses. Yet despite disruption from precipitation, bees remain resilient thanks to their ingenuity. Their rain-thwarting technologies are inspirations for our own.