bee sugar solution

Today I’m going to show you how to revive tired bees.  You see, I’m a big fan of the bees here at Moral Fibres, but our poor bees are in decline. Threatened because of neonicotinoid pesticide usage, habitat loss, and pollution, our fuzzy friends need all the help they can get.

It’s all well and good when the bees are buzzing around, doing their thing.  But have you ever seen a tired, struggling, or apparently dying or dead bee in your home or garden?  When I’ve seen bees like this I’ve always assumed that they were dying or dead.  Ever the optimist! However, the other day my other half told me they were not dying, just tired.  And that you can actually revive these bees quickly and easily using only sugar and water.

Let me first show you how to work out if your grounded bee actually does need assistance. And, once you’ve established that your bee is in trouble, how to then revive these tired bees. I’ll also show you some dos and don’ts for helping bees because our goal is to help, not harm the bees. We can inadvertently harm bees in our quest to help, so it’s important to be informed.

Firstly, Does The Bee Need Reviving?

First off, you need to decide whether the bee is actually in trouble or if it is just resting. In 2019 researchers at the Queen Mary University of London found that bumblebee queens actually spend a large proportion of their time resting on the ground.

In fact, the researchers found that bees rest for around 30 minutes on average, and occasionally up to 45 minutes. It appears that rest is a big part of the bumblebee life-cycle, particularly in early Spring. This means that if you do find a bee on the ground for an extended period of time, then in most cases there is nothing wrong with the bee, it just needs a little rest. I don’t know about you, but I can definitely relate to the bees!

Bumblebee queens normally rest in long grass and leaf litter, where they can hide from predators. However, due to our love of shortly mowed lawns and tidy gardens, it does get harder for bees to find such sheltered hiding spots.

Therefore, If you find a bumblebee queen resting on the road or on the pavement or in another busy area, then the best thing you can do for the bee is not to revive it or feed it anything but to simply move it. When it is safe to do so, you can gently move it into some grass or leaves, or onto a nearby bee-friendly flower. Failing that, a more sheltered location out of harm’s way would be sufficient.

How To Revive A Tired Bee

how to revive a dead or dying bee

If after 45 minutes, the bee is still on the ground then it may be genuinely exhausted. The best thing to do at this point is, if you can, pop the bee on a bee-friendly flower to give it time to build strength safely.

If you can’t find a flower, it is only at this point that you should intervene by offering an energy boost to the tired bee.

Thankfully it is pretty easy to revive tired and exhausted bees. A simple solution of sugar and water can work wonders in giving them the energy they need to fly away.

To create this energy drink to revive tired bees, the RSPB suggests mixing two tablespoons of white granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water.  Then place the sugar/water mix on a plate or spoon.  Do not add any more water otherwise the bee could drown. 

Next place the bee on the plate or spoon, where it will have a little drink. Hopefully, this will help it to gather the energy it needs to fly back to its hive.

Once done drinking, the bee will either fly off or gather energy to fly away. If it doesn’t fly away immediately, pop the bee onto a bee-friendly flower, or in some grass, or leaves until it is ready to fly. If you can’t find any foliage, put it in a sheltered spot until it is ready.

The only other occasion when you should offer a bee this energy drink is if it has been caught in bad weather, and again, is struggling to fly.

Some Dos & Don’ts For Feeding Bees

tips for reviving tired bees

There are some dos and don’ts for reviving tired bees that you should always follow.

Never Offer Honey

Firstly, don’t be tempted to offer tired bees honey.  In most cases, honey isn’t suitable for bees. This is because a lot of honey is imported and may not always be right for native British bees. Honey from other hives can also spread fatal diseases, such as Foulbrood, amongst bee populations, so always stick to sugar.

Only Offer White Granulated Sugar To Tired Bees

Secondly, only ever offer white granulated sugar when you need to revive a bee. Never offer any other type of sugar. That includes brown sugar and demerara sugar as these are too hard for the bee to digest. Nor should you offer any artificial or diet sweeteners as these could also be harmful to bees. If you don’t have any white granulated sugar, then the best and safest option is to offer nothing at all.

Don’t Leave Sugar Water In Your Garden

And thirdly, and very importantly, do not leave any sugar-water solution sitting out in your garden for bees to drink from at their leisure.  Sugar water fills bees up, can prevent the bees from gathering precious pollen, and therefore could be detrimental to their health. It’s also bad for plants, as this would prevent bees from pollinating our plants.

Instead, use this sugar-water technique only in an emergency when a tired bee is clearly in need of reviving.  Think of it as bee CPR! You wouldn’t use CPR on someone who was just having a nap – so don’t offer sugar water if a bee has just been resting for a short period of time.

Thankfully I haven’t found any tired bees since learning this useful tip to try it out.  However, knowing some very basic “thirst aid” (!) for bees that are clearly in trouble can go a long way in helping out the bees to rebuild their depleted population sizes.

Why Are Bees Important?

Bees are crucial to help maintain the health of our environment, and our food supply. The Food And Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations says thatclose to 75% of the world’s crops producing fruits and seeds for human consumption depend, at least in part, on pollinators for sustained production, yield, and quality“. This means without bees, we would struggle to feed ourselves.

Being able to revive tired bees is one key aspect. Another bee-friendly step that you can take is to plant a bee-friendly garden. Or, if you don’t have a garden, here’s how you can help the bees in other ways.

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how to revive tired bees

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