David Attenborough and the tired bumblebee

Back in July, I posted about some cute stories which were filling social media. Vignettes described people rescuing tired, hungry-looking (how can you tell?) bumblebees by giving them a spoonful of sugar water. I have reposted that July blog piece just below. I understand the urge to be nice (I’m Canadian) – but seriously, aren’t you playing God with nature? What if the bumblebee is sick, laden with viruses or parasites, and you’re helping it get home to die among its comrades and infect them?

On Facebook, some of those social media pleas featured Sir David Attenborough, the documentarian specializing in films about amazing wonders of nature. I doubted that the 92-year-old nature expert would have urged anyone to stuff the face of a bee. He’s smarter than that. Well, BBC, which derives its name from two bees and an ocean, and hires Attenborough, has forced Facebook to “remove fake news which claimed Sir David Attenborough advised feeding bees a spoonful of water and sugar.”  Attenborough never said anything of the sort. According to UK’s Telegram:

The fake post encouraged good samaritans to help tired bees, but experts quickly dispelled the advice revealing it can be harmful and reduce pollination.

The now deleted post quoted the naturalist [Attenborough] as saying: “If bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would have just four years to live. [Hey, didn’t Einstein say that?]

“If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee.”

Atteborough never offered that advice. So, we learn that fake news on Facebook can be removed. And maybe that bumblebee doesn’t need our sugary handouts.

🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝 🐝

From my July posting:

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 Humour, Reblogs, Save the Bees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to David Attenborough and the tired bumblebee

  1. Greg says:

    … yep, people can’t seem to help themselves…and what if the bee is just catching some sleep ? You just wrecked a good nap !!

    Liked by 1 person

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