How To Revive Tired Bees With Sugar Water: 2023 Guidance

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Found a bee on the ground that seems too tired to fly? Here’s all you need to know on how to revive tired bees, with the guidance updated for 2023.

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.

Whether that’s using organic gardening techniques, planting bee-friendly plants, or making a simple bee watering station, there’s lots to do to help bees.

But what should you do when you find bees in your home or garden that are tired or struggling, or look like they are dying?

The chances are the bee isn’t dying, it’s just tired. Most tired bees don’t actually need help – they just need a little rest. But if the bee does need help then the good news is that you can actually revive these bees quickly and easily using only sugar and water.

Learn Thirst-Aid For Bees

bee sugar solution

Knowing some very basic “thirst aid” for bees that are clearly in trouble can go a long way in helping the bees rebuild their depleted population sizes.

So 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, learn how to 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 very important to be informed.

You can use the quick links below to skip to the section you need, however, but I highly recommend reading every section so you don’t intentionally harm our fuzzy friends.

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. Occasionally they can rest for up to 45 minutes. It, therefore, 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, then in most cases there is nothing wrong with the bee. It simply 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. Here they can safely hide from predators in peace. However, due to our love of mowed lawns and tidy gardens, it does get harder for bees to find such sheltered hiding spots.

Leave It Be

If you find a tired bee in your garden, you can just leave it be. It should eventually fly off once it is fully rested.

If you find a bumblebee queen resting on the road, on the pavement, or in another busy area, then the best thing you can do is to move it so it doesn’t get squashed.

When it is safe to do so, 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.

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, to pop the bee onto 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.

How To Revive A Tired Bee

how to revive a dead or dying 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 any 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. As such, 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.

These types of sugars are too hard for the bee to digest and could cause harm. You should also never 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. 

Whilst you can make a bee drinking station for your garden, this should only be filled with plain water. Sugar water fills bees up and can prevent the bees from gathering precious pollen. This could therefore be detrimental to their health. It’s also bad for plants, as this would prevent bees from pollinating them.

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.

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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