People putting 'food' out for bees

I have been hearing lately of people in my area ( & throughout Australia via another forum for gardening) putting out food for the ‘poor struggling bees’. They are not beekeepers but people who are concerned by what they have been hearing/reading in the media etc, regarding the plight of the honeybee. In response they have been putting out bowls of purchased honey and sugar water. While it’s fantastic that the community cares, is responding, that the message is being heard, this isn’t perhaps the best response. I have posted on the gardening forum a link to Planting for Bees documents/sites. Perhaps there is a need for more information for non beekeepers, which could be relayed in part by people using this forum?


Leaving any honey out for bees is a terrible idea and is likely spreading disease to colonies (and across vast distances as the honey is transported).

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I agree, and when possible have explained this to the people doing it. Misguided good intentions. I have been told by, or seen posts by at least 25 people who think they are helping. I thought that if I’ve come across that many people in the last couple of weeks, there must be many more doing so? It seems to be that with a few sunny days, and slightly warmer temps moving into end of winter, early spring, they are noticing bees out & about but don’t have any flowers in their gardens yet?

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Dreadful. Press stories have to be more specific to avoid this. What’s wrong with suggesting hummingbird feeders with sugar water as a compromise.


I suppose I take a ‘hard line’ when it comes to feeding wild birds/animals & in this case bees(not from your own hive, and even then…?) also. I live on the border of a National Park, & have worked hard over the last 10 years to grow plants, especially natives which are natural food sources & habitat supporting the local wildlife. As a result our garden is the residence of & visited by a range of species. However last summer 2 pairs of Rosellas who regularly show up for the flowering of particular trees, returned, but very sick with psittacosis, a highly infectious disease for both birds & also affecting humans. It’s a bacterium transferred through faeces and other secretions such as saliva. When people set up feeding ‘stations’ in their gardens, they become prime places of disease transferal. It is horrible to see the birds staggering & unable to fly or perch properly, they were literally falling out of the trees. We caught the birds & they were euthanized at the vets. There are other significant physiological & social impacts when animals are fed inappropriate foods.
I understand that people like to interact/watch animals, and feeding artificially is an easy way to manipulate behaviours.
But better to give them choices from natural diets, which allow them to be healthy and viable as a species.


I get emails all the time from people who are feeding sugar water to bees for the same reason. Of course, I advise them not to. Some beekeeper somewhere is harvesting sugar water as a result…


and I definitely don’t want to be one of them

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I just did a poster for this


Well done Valli, now we just need to get it out to as many people as possible :slight_smile:

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I’ve put it on my Facebook, will put it on the 2 face book forums as well

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We get a similar disease in our finches here. I do feed the birds all year but sensibly. I clean the feeders and don’t keep them continually topped up. Summer is OK but in winter you have to be careful to not get too many birds flocking to the feeders. If you get disease the best thing is to stop feeding for a week to let the birds disperse. I must say apart from a rather heated mini discussion on the BBKA Facebook page some weeks ago I have never heard of anybody in the UK feeding bees. There are lots of local “encourage the pollinator” strategies involving insect friendly planting and verge management. I was so pleased to be driving through Monmouthshire last week to find all the roundabouts and grass verges a rainbow of wild flowers. So…progress is being made


Neither honey nor sugar water will poison them though, will they?

Honey could infect them with foul brood.

Sugar water could contaminate honey.

Both are a bad idea, but it’s important to be accurate.

It’s pesticides that do the poisoning.


If people made syrup with brown sugar (thinking it is more “natural” and healthy), that can be toxic to bees. Maybe that is what was meant? :blush:

We feed sugar water to our bees but as Dawn says if "well meaning " people feed brown or raw sugar thinking they are doing the best for Bees it’s better they have to think twice and not do it for fear of hurting the Bees - we all know Honey is a big NO! but try to explain that to Joe in the street - better to tell them not to do it and just plant flowers - Safer all around.

We can’t expect Joe in the street to understand they why’s and wherefores; the how, when where and why we feed our Bees - just better they don’t - otherwise like well meaning people feeding hedgehogs bread and milk and giving them diarrhea instead of cat food. Joe in the street needs simple instructions.


Isn’t the increased possibility of disease transferal enough? Cane sugars, are also detrimental, whilst brown sugar might give the most dramatic results, white sugar is not as complex as flower nectars and has been shown to be detrimental to the health of the bees gut. Why not just plant some flowers, there are plenty that will bring clouds of bees to your garden. Feeding also can create unseasonal or disproportionate population growth, even more detrimental in the long run.


You are quite right Valli. People should not feed bees, unless they are beekeepers and know what they are doing. Planting flowers is the right thing to do, and I’m sorry that I came across as critical. Your message is spot-on.

Brown sugar, molasses, and other unrefined sugars are poisonous to bees.

However, white sugar syrup is routinely used by many beekeepers to supplement winter stores, and is not harmful. Indeed, thousands of colonies would not survive the winter without it.

People might even wish to revive a weak bumblebee, and it’s perfectly OK to give them a little sugar water on a bit of cotton-wool for example.

The public need simple messages, and your message of “don’t feed the bees, plant flowers instead” is perfect. It’s just the use of the word “poison”, when white sugar and honey aren’t actually poisonous, is what I was objecting to.


@Thousand Phillip when people were feeding hedgehogs milk it was killing the poor things - giving them them runs when they were already down.

We can’t explain the boiling sugars makes HMF, that only white sugar should be used, molasses and other sugars will give bees the runs - it is simpler to tell the general public just not to do it - How would you have me word it - I can change it readily - I was going for shock tactics

Is this better


Simple & straightforward is best, I think.

I think this is perfect now. I’m sorry for being pedantic!

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