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How to revive a tired bee

How to save a bee with sugar solution

  
This Summer we've seen a lot of our buzzy friends flying around our wildflower garden. And thankfully, most of the time they look very healthy and happy! But as the summer draws to an end, sometimes we do see a few bees that look a little worse for wear.

If you see a bee lying or crawling on the ground you might presume it's either dead or dying, but very often that isn’t the case! Bees get tired and low on energy, just like us humans do. And if they are a long way from home or have to fly long distances without being able to dip into some flowers for nectar or find water to drink, they can find themselves in trouble.

But if you see a bee that looks like it's struggling, you can intervene and help by providing it with a reviving sugar solution!

Before we get into this any further, let’s be clear what we are suggesting here. Some people will say that a sugar solution is not good for bees. There is some truth to that, but only in the sense that a certain well known energy drink isn't 'good' for us humans either.

We are only using sugar solution to provide a much-needed energy boost for the bee and it's important that we only give it to bees when they need to be revived from an exhausted state.

Making a bee reviving sugar solution

  • 2x tablespoons of white granulated sugar

  • 1x tablespoon of water

This is the recommended ratio from the RSPB. It's important to only use white sugar, not demerara or brown cane. We use just slightly warm water from the tap to help the sugar dissolve. It should not be hot.

Simply mix the sugar and the water on a small plate or saucer.

Feeding the bee

Depending on where the bee is may change how you approach this. You could just spoon a little puddle close to the bee’s head. Or if you have a steady hand, you may be able to hold the spoon close enough for her to lick a little off the spoon. Alternatively, you can put her on the plate next to the puddle. It doesn't really matter too much, it's just a case of getting the sugar solution close enough for the bee to have a little slurp on it.

Hopefully within a short time our furry friend will have the energy to pick herself up and fly away onto the next plentiful nectar supply and then back to the safety of the hive.

A few final points

While it is a great idea to leave a shallow dish of water near your flowers for bees to drink, that should be regular, plain rain water. It's important to stress again that you should not leave any sugar solution around for bees to drink at their leisure. It may prevent them from gathering nectar and could be very bad for their health. The sugar solution should only be used in an emergency when a bee clearly needs your assistance!

If there are flowers nearby you could attempt to move the bee onto one, so it can drink some nectar. That approach is what is recommended by some insect charities. There are obvious issues with this though. That flower may have already been drained of nectar by other bees and that might be why the bee has found herself in the position she's in. Not to mention that not everyone is confident or comfortable enough handling a bee in this way!

If you found a bee in a more urban area there may not be any flowers nearby to even attempt it. The bee may have been on a route it has travelled many times before, until one day a large area of flowers has been cleared and she got caught out. Yes, in an ideal situation a flower's nectar is best as it provides nutrients that a sugar solution cannot, but we can't always afford to be that idealistic. If the option is to do something or do nothing, we would recommend doing something.

Bees can also be affected by a sudden change in temperature and they can't fly at all if it's colder than 12 degrees centigrade. If it's a particularly chilly British summer, which isn't that unusual, and you see a bee on the ground in the shade, you might want to attempt to move it in to a sunnier area to see how it responds before feeding it the sugar solution.

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