Can Bees Get Drunk?

Bee eating fermented blackberry

Bees can get drunk just like humans do. Like humans, bees are intoxicated by ethanol, the intoxicating substance in alcohol. Ethanol is formed by fermentation when yeast interacts with sugar to ferment a substance and turn it into alcohol. 

Bees can drink ethanol when yeast interacts with the sugars in nectar to form ethanol. This essentially turns the nectar into alcohol that bees can drink. 

Nectar is most likely to ferment when it has a high water content. This means that if it has been raining a lot or has been very humid, it is more likely that the nectar will ferment. 

A number of studies have been conducted on the effects of alcohol on bees and how it affects them, how much they are willing to drink, and what happens after they return to the hive after drinking. 

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    What Happens When a Bee Gets Drunk?

    A drunk bee has difficulty moving and becomes less coordinated, just as a drunken human might. In some cases, bees can even become so drunk that they cannot move at all and will simply lie on their backs and wiggle their legs.

    In addition, other drunk bees may experience difficulties navigating themselves back to their hive and may suffer flying accidents, such as running into trees in midair.[1]

    There are some species of bees that become more aggressive after consuming ethanol, including Africanized honey bees. The study that demonstrated this was terminated after five hours because the drunk bees became aggressive and dangerous to the researchers. [2]

    How to Tell If a Bee Is Drunk

    A very drunk bee will most likely lie on its back and wiggle its legs, incapable of standing or flying. Less drunk bees will still spend some time upside down, but they are also capable of walking or flying, albeit sloppily. 

    Do Bees Like Alcohol?

    The question of whether bees like alcohol is difficult to answer, but they are certainly willing to consume it.

    According to certain scientific studies, bees have been observed drinking 95% ethanol solutions as long as their antennae are not in contact with the solutions. This is an extremely high concentration of alcohol. 

    While their reasons for drinking it remain unknown, it is certain that bees have no qualms about drinking alcohol.[3][4]

    What Happens When a Drunk Bee Tries to Get Back to Their Hive?

    When a drunken bee returns to its hive, the guard bees around the hive will identify it by its erratic motion and will not allow it to enter. [5] It is because fermented nectar carried by the drunk bee could damage the honey stores of the hive, causing the entire food supply of the hive to go bad. 

    Can Bees Become Addicted to Alcohol?

    Although it is unclear whether bees can become addicted to alcohol like humans, what is clear is that they develop alcohol tolerance just like humans. There are two methods by which bees can tolerate alcohol, metabolic and functional. 

    As a result of metabolic tolerance, an organism, such as a bee, is able to absorb alcohol more slowly and remove it from its body quicker, while functional tolerance occurs when the nervous system enhances an individual’s ability to function even when they are exposed to alcohol.

    Honeybees demonstrate tolerance to alcohol because they have a greater resistance to its effects once they have consumed it previously, meaning that they are less impaired by it than those who have never consumed it. 

    Is Alcohol Dangerous to Bees?

    There is no doubt that alcohol is harmful to bees as it is to humans. In addition to dying from alcohol poisoning alone, bees can also suffer a death when they attempt to return to their hives and are refused entry by the guard bees. 

    A bee that gets drunk typically dies, as they are rejected by the colony and cannot return to their hive. Drunk bees are not coordinated enough to keep themselves safe from nature or predators, which is why their expulsion from the colony is extremely severe. 

    Do bees get drunk on pollen
    Much like when a human consumes large amounts of alcohol, a bee will move in a 'sloppy' fashion.

    Furthermore, drunk bees often have difficulty foraging due to their impaired motor coordination. Once a drunk bee has sobered up and is no longer carrying fermented nectar, it can be allowed back into the hive. However, a drunk bee has difficulty surviving alone in the natural world.  

    Furthermore, alcohol poses a danger to bees because it can contaminate their honey stores and cause them to become ill. Fermented nectar introduced into the hive and stored with other honey can cause the honey to ferment and make all the bees sick and intoxicated.

    Can Flowers Make Bees Drunk?

    Any flower containing fermented nectar can make a bee drunk. The fermentation process is most easily facilitated when the nectar contains a greater amount of water. 

    As nectar usually contains relatively little water, yeasts are not able to grow in it. It is important to note that during times of heavy rainfall or high humidity, the nectar can become more susceptible to fermentation due to the accumulation of moisture.

    Furthermore, warmer temperatures are more conducive to fermentation, which means that bees are most likely to become intoxicated when the weather is both moist and warm. 


    [1] Wikipedia [2] SAGE [3] Science Daily [4] Pubmed [5] The Guardian [6]

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