About Bees & Beekeeping How far does a bee fly & how does it navigate? Distance The distance each bee flies in its life is astonishing. It is possible for bees to fly as far as 5 miles for food, however an average distance would be less than a mile from the hive. A strong colony, around 60,000 bees, therefore flies the equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon everyday! Speed The normal top speed of a worker would be about 15-20mph (21-28km/h) when flying to a food source and about 12mph (17km/h) when returning, heavily laden, with nectar, pollen, propolis (resin collected from tree buds) or water. Navigation Bees use the position of the sun to navigate and there is evidence too of their sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field. Also bees' eyes are sensitive to polarised light, which penetrates through even thick cloud, so bees are able to ‘see’ the sun in poor weather. As well as two, large, compound eyes on either side of its head the bee has three ‘ocelli’ on the top of its head. (Look carefully at the picture and you can see them in the fur on the top of her head above the big compound eye) The ocelli (collective noun for all 3 eyes) can detect the transition from darkness to light. They use them to detect where the horizon is. If the horizon moves up it means the bee is flying down so it can rotate the angle of its wings to compensate. In this way, the bee can make sure it’s flying along a flat plain to achieve a greater distance over a shorter space of time. Colour Vision Honeybees compound eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the light spectrum and into ultraviolet. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultraviolet light and will appear very bright to a bee. Bees are totally red blind so you may want to rethink your planting for bees to include more blues. Gardening for bees Science You can help us fund more original studies of honeybees and how to help them by donating!