How to save honey bees: Top tips on the correct way to revive busy bees

Countryfile: Helen Skelton discusses British honey

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Bees become active in the spring and are at their busiest during warm weather. Over the summer bees will be working overtime to pollinate the beautiful flowers in your garden. Sugar water has been touted as a great way to help out tired bees but, does it actually help?

Bees have a high metabolism as they are so busy and according to Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, even one with a full stomach of nectar can be just 40 minutes away from starvation.

This summer if you see a bee crawling on the ground it is likely they are suffering from exhaustion.

Many Brits will put out a bowl of sugar water to help them on their way.
But is this solution a kindness or will it negatively impact bee health?

A fake Facebook post in 2018 claiming to be from Sir David Attenborough urged Brits to leave sugar water out for tired bees.

The post said: “In the last five years the bee population has dropped by 1/3. If bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, humans would have just four years left to live.

“This time of year bees can often look like they are dying or dead, however, they’re far from it. Bees can become tired and they simply don’t have enough energy to return to the hive which can often result in being swept away.”

The post then shared instructions on putting out water mixed with sugar as a means of helping tired bees get back on their feet.

Although this post was called out as a fake and has since been deleted, it was unwittingly shared by millions and the idea that sugar water can help struggling bees is still believed by many.

Is sugar water harmful to bees?

Many experts have condemned the post, claiming that well-wishing Brits could actually harm bee health by leaving out this solution.

One of the UK’s leading insect charities, Buglife, told the BBC: “Sugar solution should always be used as a last resort to help bees that look tired and exhausted as they are only able to give a quick hit.”

Buglife recommend instead of leaving out sugar water Brits should put tired bees onto flowers, so they can find nectar.

This nectar contains the nutrients they need, unlike the sugar solution.

Buglife said sugar can be harmful as it offers no nutrients to bees and the lack of protein can even lead to bees eating their own eggs to keep themselves going if they become reliant on the sugar solution.

If non-exhausted bees discover sugar water they are likely to go back to the hive and get more bees to come to this new source of easy food.

This quick energy hit can be devastating for the hive and leaving sugar water solution out has been compared to feeding bees junk food.

Sugar solution will give them an energy burst but has no other nutritional value unlike the food, nectar, they should be having.

Sugar solution will not be sufficient to feed the growing larvae bees take back to the hive.

A teaspoon of sugar can be used to help revive a single collapsed bee as a last resort but sugar solution shouldn’t be put out for busy bees this summer.

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