Bees can fly between 6 and 30 miles per hour (MPH). The speed at which bees fly can vary based on the species or type of bee, with honey bees having an average flight speed ranging from 12 and 20 MPH, yellow jackets ranging between 6 and 30 miles per hour, and hornets getting up to 25 MPH.
How Do Bees Fly?
Bee flight has confounded the scientific community for quite some time, due to the fact that a bee’s wings should be too small to carry its body mass.
Bees have two complete systems of moving wings, the direct and indirect systems. Both systems control their different movements.
Their flight muscles allow the wings to rotate and twist during flight. The wings make quick, short sweeping movements, front and backward. Thus, this motion creates enough lift to enable the bees to fly.
Scientists observed that a bee’s wing beat can get up to 240 times per second. This is why buzzing is often associated with bees, due to the rapid wing beats of hundreds, even thousands of bees at a time.
This rapid wing beat will ensure that it can lift its stocky body, as well as fly during poor conditions, and carry material like pollen and nectar.
Speed Of Common Bee Species
Different bee species possess different flight speeds. Worker honeybees, for example, carry out different tasks in comparison to a bumblebee. Therefore, they both fly at different speeds.
Below are the speeds of some of the common bee species:
|Bee Type||Speed Range|
|Honeybees||12 – 20 Miles Per Hour|
|Bumblebees||7 – 30 Miles Per Hour|
|Yellow Jackets||7 – 30 Miles Per Hour|
|Hornets||14 – 25 Miles Per Hour|
How Fast Do Honey Bees Fly?
When traveling with water, nectar, or pollen, the average speed that a worker honey bee flies is 15 miles per hour (MPH) or 17 kilometers per hour (KM/H). Their recorded fastest speed is 20 miles per hour, which turns them into killer bees when other insects get close to their hives.
When there’s an unexpected obstacle on the bee’s flight path, which interrupts their speed, then this makes the bees sting in self-defense.
FUN FACT: There are over 1,000 types of honeybees worldwide. Click here to learn about the most common types.
How Fast Do Bumblebees Fly?
A bumblebee’s wings beat at 200 beats per second (BPS), and they have an average flying speed of 22 Miles Per Hour. Bumblebees travel at such high speeds because they have a critical task to carry out – they act as pollinators.
How Fast Do Yellow Jackets Fly?
Experts say that the top speed of a yellow jacket is 6-7 miles per hour (MPH). This is a speed that a human being can easily outrun. Research reveals that yellow jackets similarly move their wings as the bees do. They have two sets of wings attached to the thorax.
How Fast Do Hornets Fly?
Hornets belong to the Hymenoptera family, just like yellow jackets and bees. This means they possess two sets of wings attached to the thorax. Hornets beat their wings at approximately `100 beats per second and fly at speeds of 13-14 miles per hour (MPH).
What about the queen bee?
Although the queen bee lives more of a sedentary life when compared to the drone and worker bees, the queen can still fly at similar speeds and distances. In some cases, the hive may be threatened and the queen must leave, but more often than not the queen will be killed by the colony if her larvae production is too low.
Plus, there are so few queens when compared to the numbers of drones and worker bees in the world. Making measuring a queen speed very difficult.
Can A Human Outrun Bees?
On average, a healthy human being has a running speed of up to 20 miles per hour. Unless, of course, you possess superhuman speeds of up to 28 miles per hour like Usain Bolt.
Bees, on the other hand, have an average top speed of 15-20 miles per hour, with some reaching upwards of 30 miles per hour.
Given the above information, it is safe to say that an average, healthy human, can outrun bees.
But, the obvious next question is…
For how long can healthy humans outrun bees?
A bee will often fly over six miles per day, collecting nectar to support its colony. So if you’re able to sustain 20 miles per hour for a long distance, then you can outrun bees.
If that’s too challenging, it’s best to find an enclosed shelter like a car or building.
What To Do If Bees Are Chasing You
When threatened, bees may take action to protect the queen and hive. This is the last resort for bees, as they will die after they use their stinger.
The earliest signs of bees becoming agitated are a small number of bees bumping into you. It’s important to remain calm, as any additional signs of aggression may cause them to become more defensive. So, consider these bee “headbutts” as a simple love tap and remain as still as possible.
If you believe the bees are becoming more aggressive, it’s time to begin slowly backing away from the hive or where the bees are congregating.
Finally, if they become very aggressive and begin stinging, turn around and run in a straight line. You may want to cover your head and face with a scarf or jacket as you proceed quickly away.
Seek an enclosed shelter where you know the bees will not be able to enter.
And lastly, you may feel the need to swat the bees away. This is risky because when a bee is killed by a predator, they release an alarm pheromone that alerts other bees to danger. The bees may begin to swarm in greater numbers if provoked.
It’s best to simply turn and run to the nearest shelter.
How Do Bees Fly In Varying Conditions?
Bees fly in the wind by making a partial alignment of their bodies in the direction of the wind as they traverse through an area of cross-winds.
Bees can fly in light rain, but they don’t like to. Wet and cloudy weather is not the bees’ favorite. Additionally, heavy rains slow the bees down by making their wings wet. If the raindrops are too big, there’s a risk of breaking the bee’s wings.
Most bee species are diurnal and fly during the daytime. Therefore, most bees don’t fly at night because they cannot see and avoid obstacles.
Bees are also ectothermic, which means their body temperature is regulated based on their environment. Their body temperature typically needs to get up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit before they become active.
To achieve a body temperature that allows them to begin their day, they will either warm in the sun or vigorously vibrate their wings and other flight muscles.
Researchers discovered that instead of the bees having a faster wing stroke, they increase the angle at which they extend their wings with each beat. This makes them reach closer to their abdomens and heads. Hence the increased amount of air helps boost their bodies up.
Alpine bumblebees, for example, can move at pressures of up to 9000-meter altitudes. Studies have confirmed that they do this by beating their wings in larger strokes.
Comparing Bee Speeds To Other Animals
It may be helpful to give you a sense of how fast bees fly compared to other animals. For instance, dragonflies can fly at 35 miles per hour. Hummingbirds, on the other hand, can fly up to 61 miles per hour.
|Animal||Miles Per Hour||Kilometers Per Hour|
|Owl||40 MPH||64 KPH|
|House Fly||5 MPH||8 KPH|
|Bald Eagle||30 MPH||48 KPH|
|Dragonfly||35 MPH||56 KPH|
|Hummingbird||61 MPH||98 KPH|
Bees really are remarkable insects as there is far more to them than meets the eye. From their vision, flight, colony habits, and honey production, there’s just so much more to learn about the Apis Mellifera.
Oh, and try not to get into a race with one!