UK Gardeners Warned Against Viral Sugar Hack For Saving Bees

This is a real rollercoaster.
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If you didn’t know already, leaving a bowl of water out in your garden can benefit everything from birds to bees. Leaving just a little bit of H2O out can help to bring much-needed critters to your lawn, which can be extremely helpful during our biodiversity crisis.

And now, it appears that an old Facebook post falsely citing David Attenborough as its source is doing the rounds again. The deleted 2018 post suggests you should leave a spoonful of sugar or some sugar water in your garden to revive dead bees, and was debunked by the BBC and RSPB back in its first circulation.

But, while the accreditation was false, and while the RSPB warn against leaving large amounts of sugar water out for bees, there’s still a case to be made for feeding the odd bee or two a bit of syrup.

With the original quote making headlines again, we thought we’d share exactly how, and when, to use sugar water for an ailing apis.

So, what does the 2018 post say?

The falsely-attributed post contained the following message:

“In the last 5 years the bee population has dropped by ⅓. If bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would have just 4 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. If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee. Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach. You can also help by sharing this post to raise awareness.”

What’s so wrong with that?

Well, first of all, the accreditation is wrong ― David Attenborough never said that. And, if you take the advice far enough to leave a whole tub of randomly-mixed sugar water out in your back garden, you could end up doing more harm than good.

The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB) says that the sugar-to-water ratio matters. Mixing two tablespoons of sugar into one tablespoon of water is a good idea, but don’t go above that as “making the mixture any stronger,” or feeding the flying friends energy drinks, could mean “bees getting excess amounts of sugar.”

They also advise that you never use honey, as it can contain viruses.

Secondly, the RSPB recommends only using a small container, like an eggcup, to house the water. Otherwise, birds could get in it, and the syrup can ruin their feathers.

On top of that, a large reservoir of sugar water could completely derail the hive and lead to a dependence on a false energy source that’s entirely at your mercy. “We would not advise leaving out sugar and water as bees will go to this rather than a flower because it is easier and then flowers are not being pollinated,” Val Osborne, head of RSPB wildlife enquiries, said on their site.

Don’t throw the beebee out with the sugar water (sorry)

“The term ‘busy bee’ didn’t appear from thin air. Our bees get very little in the way of a work-life balance and this makes for an exhausting existence. For this reason, it’s common to find tired bees on pathways, walls and places you wouldn’t expect. In these cases, a simple mixture of around two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water left on a spoon or in an eggcup is helpful for hardworking bees,” the RSPB shared.

After all, the bee population really is in decline, and if providing them with a short-term energy source can get ’em pollinating again, all the better.

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that bees die quickly and unfortunately, some are simply bound for the great honeycomb in the sky. With that said, it’s OK to offer exhausted bees a bit of an energy drink as a short-term, single-bee solution ― just don’t leave massive amounts of sugar water out for the critters, make sure you’re sticking to the correct sugar-to-water ratio and avoiding honey, and, for the love of great voiceovers, leave poor David Attenborough out of it.