Should You Feed Native Bees?

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Should You Feed Native Bees?

Should you feed native bees? Josh Vaisman explains the whys and why nots.

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Do you know if the sugar water will work for wild bees as well? I haven’t undertaken starting my own hive, but I usually have quite a few bees that visit my raspberries all summer long.
Rebecca Davis

Thanks for the question, Rebecca! I think you’re asking if it’s OK to put sugar water out as a source of food for wild (or native) bees. If I’m understanding you correctly, here is my thoughts on that.

In theory, yes, you can feed wild bees with sugar water – however, there are some considerations I think you should keep in mind to help you decide if that’s what you want to do.

(1) Wild bees are part of the local ecological system. When we bring a colony of honey bees into the area we are artificially changing the bee population in that area. Wild bees, however, as part of the natural ecological system have a population controlled by natural forces. I bring this up because we sometimes must feed our honey bees because the natural food sources don’t support them enough in that particular time. With the wild bees, their population ebbs and flows according to the natural resources. With this in mind, I typically consider providing natural food sources (eg, planting pollinator-friendly plants) the best way to support the native bee population … and our own honey bees, in the long run!

(2) Sugar water, in my opinion, should really be viewed as an “emergency” source of food for our bees. That is, the last resort when natural resources simply aren’t available or aren’t sufficient. The reason being, natural sources (eg, flower nectar) have beneficial nutrients sugar water lacks. For the health of all bees, wild or otherwise, natural sources of nectar are much healthier. That said, bees are opportunistic. They go for whatever is most efficient. Providing an open supply of sugar water could, in theory, attract bees away from the naturally occurring nectar sources.

(3) Finally, sugar water will not selectively attract bees. It will attract all sorts of opportunistic insects, including wasps … sometimes in very large numbers.

So, in the end, yes you can open feed wild bees with sugar water. I’m sure they would be grateful for it! That said, I’d keep the above 3 points in mind to help you decide if that is the direction you’d like to go.

I hope this helps!

Josh Vaisman

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