Summary Rest at night in forager honey bees (Apis mellifera) meets essential criteria of sleep. This paper reports the effect of a 12-h total sleep deprivation (SD) by forced activity on the behaviour of these animals. The behaviour of sleep-deprived animals is compared with that of control animals under LD [periodic alternation between light (L) and darkness (D)] 12 : 12 hours. SD for 12 h during the first D period resulted in a significant difference with respect to the parameter ‘hourly amount of antennal immobility’ between sleep-deprived and control animals during the remaining L and D periods. This difference did not occur in the L period following the deprivation night, but rather it became obvious at the beginning of the following D period. The increase of the amount of antennal immobility in sleep-deprived bees was accompanied by an increase of the duration of episodes of antennal immobility. Moreover, the latency from ‘lights off’ to the first episode of antennal immobility lasting 20 s or longer (‘deep sleep latency’) tended to be shorter in sleep-deprived than in control animals. Disturbing the bees during the day (L period) did not result in such differences between disturbed and control animals. Highest reaction thresholds in sleeping honey bees occur during long episodes of antennal immobility. We therefore conclude that honey bees compensate a sleep deficit by intensification (deepening) of the sleep process and thus that sleep in honey bees, like that in other arthropods and mammals, is controlled by regulatory mechanisms.