“I modified a hummingbird feeder just for bees.
This is an attempt to keep the bees off of the hummingbird feeders. There are 12 ports, each has a piece of a soda straw going into the nectar. A crumpled up piece of soda straw keeps the other bees from pushing them into the nectar.
Bees seem to be rather pushy. If they can not get into a flower, they push. If she pushes another bee into the nectar and drowns her, that’s what happens. Got to be careful that I don’t end up with a bunch of drowned bees.”
This from a web page, and there are many, detailing well meant efforts to help honey bees by feeding them sugar syrup. The feeding is often done, not just to help Mother Nature, but to keep wasps and bees from competing with hummingbirds at hummingbird feeders.
Alas, such feeding is unwise, and bad for the bees.
Sugar syrup does indeed feed the bees, and in cold winter areas, beekeepers feed syrup to their hives in spring and fall to ensure they have calories to keep them warm all winter. But syrup does not a good honey make!
Strictly speaking, it does not make honey at all, if we limit (and I think we should) our definition of honey to “that which is produced by honey bees from flower nectars”.
Syrup does not have the complex and dense nutritional profile found in flower nectars. Water white syrup honey tastes pallid and sickly sweet to humans, can dilute and ruin the honey crop of your nearby beekeepers, and can cause poor nutrition and dysentery in honey bees.
Putting out syrup for bees will make the bees happy…very happy! It will make every bee within a two mile radius happy, and they will all have a party in your back yard. It will look like a swarm, and act as a disease transfer station, with potentially sick or pest ridden bees sharing germs, viruses and mites just as they do in the California almond orchards at blossom time.
So putting out syrup is not good for bees.
What is good for them, how can you give the little girls a boost?
You can plant flowers, in particular catmint. Catmint is a good mixer in any border, blooms repeatedly over a long period, has beautifully fragrant gray-green foliage, is tough and hardy, and gives bees plenty of nectary goodness.
You can plant a pollinator patch to help all the pollinators out there, thick with dill, fennels, catmint, hardy geraniums, malvas, and mints.
The bees will come, including the sweetly adorable bumblebees, and they will come in civilized numbers and behave themselves.
But how to keep them off the hummingbird feeders? That’s easy: put nectar guards on all the feeder ports or switch over to models where the syrup reservoir is too far from the feeder ports for bees and wasps to reach. Hummingbirds have very long tongues, bees and wasps do not. A good model is pictured below.
Enjoy the birds and the bees!