bee drinking ambrosia from a bee revival kit

How to Correctly Save a Tired Bee with Sugar Water

In the city, tired bees are a common sighting. This is because there are fewer flower stops on the way back to the hive. You will find bees on the sides of paths or parks as they don't have the energy to complete their foraging mission.

Why is this Important?

Animals and insects are required for pollinating 80% of our flowering plants. All of our crops and vegetables such as broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes etc… would disappear, which would have disastrous effects on our ability to get food and rear livestock. It would cost £1.8 billion/per year to try and do the bees' work of pollinating ourselves. Not to mention the habitat loss for the wildlife in a world without enough bees.

So, bees are vital to our environment and food sources. We need to look after them.

However, a simple search online will bring up a lot of conflicting information about how to revive a tired bee. Some people say that sugar water is the best way, while others ban this method. Feeding honey is also suggested, which can actually do more harm than good to the bees.

So how do we help our fuzzy friends and get them back on their merry way?

Let's fly in and see how to rescue an exhausted bee by first explaining the two no-no's:

bees on a honeycomb dripping with honey

Honey is Great for You But Bad for Me

When you think of bees, you think of honey. Those busy little workers creating honey for your Cheerios, but you should not give honey to a tired bee. In Australia, it is actually illegal to leave honey out for bees.

American Foul Brood disease (AFD) is a disease that affects the bee larvae. The bacteria spores of it can be found in honey and, although it's safe for humans, it's fatal for bees. It is extremely contagious and after feeding a bee some honey, it will go back and infect the whole hive.

24/7 Access to Sugar Water is Not A-Okay

Is sugar water bad for bees? Many of the reasons for the conflicting information on this is due to a viral fake news post, which was wrongly attributed to David Attenborough and taken down. The post spread awareness of our bee decline, but it (incorrectly) suggested leaving a sugar solution out for them. Instead of giving one tired bee support, bees were being encouraged to these solutions in gardens and on window ledges. This is terrible for the hive because, unlike nutritious pollen and nectar, this solution will not feed the bee larvae properly and can also cultivate bacteria over time. Putting these out for bees will teach them to go there and leave the flowers unpollinated as the RSPB also warns. In the long-term, it could even end up getting an unsuspecting beekeeper prosecuted as his 'honey' turns out to be only sugar syrup.

But, many of the headlines stating that sugar water is bad are only using clickbait methods and eventually conclude that it's helpful to feed a one-off bee.

bee drinking ambrosia from a bee revival kitPhoto by Jess Cully

The 5 Simple Steps to Revive a Bee:

1) Check the Symptoms

Is the bee wet? If so, you can place her in the sun to warm up. An exhausted bee, however, will appear lethargic and will probably be far away from any flowers. It is important to note that she could be only resting or actually dying. Bees don't live very long, and if she looks old or is clinging to a flower, sadly these steps won't resurrect her.

2) Stay Protected

Make sure you are protected from the bee's stinger by using your sleeve, a nearby leaf, or a container when you pick her up. Remember to be gentle. There's nothing scarier than a big human carrying you off.

3) Find a Flower

Try and find a flower nearby. If it's possible, make it a high nectar and pollen one such as buddleia, sunflowers or knapweeds. This is the high-nutrient food that she has been looking for.

4) Wait

You do need to have a little patience. The average bee resting time is about 30 minutes. Give it time and if she doesn't take it, she either can't or doesn't want it.

5) Offer a Sugar Solution

If the flower method fails, sugar water is needed. The RSPB suggests getting a small container or spoon and offering two tablespoons of granulated white sugar to one tablespoon of water. If you have your Bee Revival Keyring, this is an easy step for your spontaneous encounter with a tired bee. Remember that if she doesn't take it, don't force it on her as she will be a sticky mess and worse off than when you found her!

Some Final Thoughts

So, sugar solutions are a great way to save a tired bee, but only as a last resort as supported by both the RSPB and Buglife, one of the UK's leading insect charities. Think of it as a short-term hit of energy for her (like junk food or a protein shake for us!)

Like most things, prevention is better than a cure. So how do you support the bees in the first place without having to do emergency Bee-PR?

Well, planting high nectar and pollen plants will encourage bees into your garden and provide them with food supplies. Our Seed Balls are a convenient way to plant wildflowers or pop down to your local gardening centre to pick out your own bee-friendly plants. Bee and insect hotels are also an effective way to look after the bees as they provide shelter and breeding nests for solitary bees. These kinds of bees like to burrow in warm patches of soil or even among stones.

seedball scatter

Why not make it a day of creating a perfect bee garden?

We hope this helps you save a bee! If you have any questions please reach out as we'd love to hear from you.

Always be ready to save a tired bee with our Bee Revival Keyring! It provides an emergency solution to REVIVE an exhausted bee so it can continue its mission pollinating planet Earth.

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Thanks for this! First link that came up when I searched how to help a struggling bee. Great resource.



Julie Bidmead

My neighbour has given me one as a Christmas gift ( very thoughtful) havent used it yet but will be ready to when I see a bee in distress.

And beeson

Very good information and I will buy one of these next Spring.


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