Bees will forage different distances for their pollen/nectar gathering.

It should not be surprising when you look at the various body sizes.  A bumble bee can forage about 8 miles (15 km), a honey bee about 2 miles (3 km), and a mason bee about 300 feet (100m).

Honey, bumble, and mason bee flying distances

What are the impacts of this flight ability

  • When you’re a bee owner and your neighbors within that range spray chemicals, it’s a big issue.  Pesticides can get into your honey, diseases/viruses may be picked up, and your bees may not return at all.
  • If you’re a farmer trying to pollinate specific portions of your crop, it’s even trickier.  A cold cleft in an orchard may be ignored by bees preferring to fly only where it’s warm.  If there are nearby crops with better nectar/pollen sources, those will be pollinated first.

Pollinating with multiple bee species is wise

  • Farmers/orchard managers should learn that bees will pollinate differently.  Honey and bumble bees will forage for mostly nectar.  When the nectar isn’t flowing as well, the bloom may still be ready for pollination, yet go unnoticed.
  • Solitary bees focus on the pollen.  They will hit on flowers just beginning to bloom and just finishing their bloom as pollen may still be available.  Orchards are beginning to see better fruit set and healthier fruit when they’re augmenting their honey bees with mason bees.