Should you feed a tired bee?

Feeding bumblebees that are resting in a garden has become a thing. I’ve seen some twitter tweets with concerned citizens gallantly virtue signalling their good deed – giving a bee a drink of sugar water. Here’s a sample:

You can find tweets and posts like this all over the place. Kindly folks want to help tired/sick bees. A bit of sugar water might indeed revive a hungry bee.  But should we?

Should you feed tired bees? Is that interfering with wildlife? Are you changing the evolved social fabric which will result in advantages to bees willing to hang out with humans? That’s how wolves became dogs. And, it’s the way Carniolan bees became docile – the strain was kept on porches and in gardens for centuries. Mean bees were destroyed and mellow ones thrived, creating gentle Carniolans through human selection.

Should you feed wild bumblebees?  Let’s ignore your inadvertent genetic manipulation and look at something more serious. What if the bee looks tired and hungry but is actually infested with viruses or parasites? Are you doing a favour if you help a sick bee return to her colony where she spreads her malady to all her friends?

Good or bad? I’m not sure, but I don’t like seeing any animal in distress. I might be tempted to whip out some highly processed white sugar, dissolve it in chlorinated tap water, and feed it to a suffering bee. But is it really the right thing to do?



About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Ecology, Save the Bees, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Should you feed a tired bee?

  1. I often need to rescue pollinators who’ve attempted to catch a drink in the pool (it’s a lot more obvious than the actual drinking water that’s always available for them on the shady east side of the house ): but I figure, if I put them on a plant in bloom, they ought to be able to feed themselves while they dry out. If not, c’est la vie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. valbjerke says:

    I find the odd bumblebee in my house – I put them back outside near water because it’s a given they’re not going to survive trying to get through my front window. I tend to ‘rescue’ things that are in a predicament because of people. I was given a raven a dozen years ago – as a fledgling his tree was cut down – nerve damage in one wing meant he couldn’t fly. Would I actually feed a tired bee? No.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emily Scott says:

    I think it’s good that people are thinking about another species and at least getting the sugar and water rather than honey message. Would a sick bee return to the nest after a feed, or would it instinctively know to stay away? Not so good is that sometimes the message is getting translated into people leaving a sugar/water mix out in their garden whether they have seen a tired bee or not.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. acquest13 says:

    I rescue them from the pond/ pool. I don’t feed but if it encourages people to consider wildlife a bit more than perhaps the good outweighs the bad?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Hot Bee Topics in 2018 | Bad Beekeeping Blog

  6. Pingback: 2018 a little recap of interesting posts from Ron Miksha | A Jar of Honey San Jose

  7. Granny Roberta says:

    I think the important thing is not so much “rescuing” the bee as it is posting about it on Twitter.

    Priorities everyone.


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