Honey Bees’ behavior before a storm: Are they riding an outflow boundary?

Check out this video that was sent to WHNT News 19 by Jonathan Harbison in the Moorsville area on Thursday afternoon.

In it, Jonathan noticed a large number of bees flying around in a neighborhood, and he surmised that the bees were riding an outflow boundary:

"Just about the time a storm hit today around 11:45am a colony of honey bees seemed to be riding the straight line winds of the storm passing right by us."

In observing the radar data at the time and location of the event, it appears that light rain was approaching the Moorsville area.


In addition, Doppler wind speeds indicate that winds in the region spanned between 15 mph and 20 mph. Anemometers at nearby Pryor Field in Decatur measured a 23 mph wind gust between 11:30am and 12:00pm.


While it does not look like a massive swarm of bees are riding a particularly strong outflow boundary in the video above, it does appear that they are exhibiting somewhat "aggressive" behavior as Jonathan describes being hit as the bees fly around in the wind.

Formal meteorological research on bees' behavior before -- and during --  a thunderstorm is currently rather sparse. However, one particular research paper published in 1987 supports the theory that "that higher overall activity of the bees [occurs] under high temperature and high humidity conditions" which often preclude bad weather, like thunderstorms.

With temperatures and dewpoints in the 70s, the atmosphere was quite warm and quite humid before the rain arrived, which may have spurred higher bee activity, as seen in Jonathan's video.

Anecdotal evidence from beekeepers suggest that while bees are not necessarily perturbed by rain drops themselves, but rather extreme changes in atmospheric pressure, which indeed is what occurs when thunderstorms develop in our region.

Weather and Biology: More meteorological/biological combinations

Scientific topics like chemistry, physics, and biology are often taught separately in grade school, but in nature, they can come together on a large range of topics -- including meteorology.

For example, weather radars are used to monitor the migration patterns of birds, including purple martins. Doppler radar can also be used to track mayfly swarms and even bats!