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A spoonful of sugar could help our bees

Last modified: 11 August 2009

Bumblebee climbing into dahlia flower

Image: Katie Fuller

On the rare occasion we’ve had a hot day this summer, I bet you’ve gulped down a sugary drink to help you cool off?

Well our dwindling bee population could benefit from a similar sweet treat according to the RSPB.

‘Busy as a bee’ is a fitting phrase as bees are hard working and incredibly important pollinators.

Bees are at their busiest at this time of year. Sometimes they become exhausted and lie on the ground, seemingly dead, as they rest a while.

But the RSPB is suggesting that a sweet drink, made from sugar and water, could give them the energy boost they need.

Simply mix around two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water

Simply mixing around two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and placing the mix in a small container like an egg cup among bees’ favourite flowers, will provide them with energy at this busy time.

No more than these amounts should be put out at any one time so they don’t have excess amounts of sugar. The wildlife charity suggests small containers so that birds don’t dive in for a sugary bath.

Despite seeming an obvious choice, honey is not a suitable alternative. Most honey is imported and although good for us humans, it may not suit our native bees.

Val Osborne, Head of RSPB Wildlife Enquiries, says: “Busy as a bee is a true saying – bees are working to save the planet and they really do deserve our help.

“We’ve been getting even more calls about bees than ever this year as most people have read that they are in trouble.

“Many people keep seeing bees lying on the ground and assume they are dead but chances are they are having a rest.

“Much like us, a sugary drink could boost their energy levels and a simple sugar and water combination will be a welcome treat.

“Just make sure you only leave out the suggested small amounts and use a small cup so that birds can’t get in it.”

Hardworking bumblebees

Wildflowers and crops alike depend on the hard work of our endearing bumblebees, but sadly many species are now under threat. Habitat loss has already led to the extinction of three species, and several more are severely threatened, including the wild honey bee, the short-haired bumblebee and the large, noisy and very familiar, garden bumble bee.

Hay meadows and clover leys are now seldom seen in today’s farmland, leaving little for bumblebees to feed on, so both farmers and conservationists need to do what they can to help.

Gardeners can also make a big difference by planting flowering plants which provide vital nectar and pollen for bees and other insects.

Knapweeds, sunflowers, purple loosestrife and buddleia are among those plants that are valuable to wildlife.

Solitary bees also like to burrow into dry sunny banks or warm patches of bare earth in a lawn or border, even among a pile of stones. Try to retain such features in your garden.

How you can help

Tell us about your garden and we’ll provide you with tailored wildlife-gardening advice!

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