London (change)
Today 18°C / 15°C
Tomorrow 21°C / 15°C

Bumblebee rescue

Posted: Monday 24 February 2014
by Kate Bradbury

I found a bumblebee lying lifeless in the street in rush hour on Wednesday evening.


I found a bumblebee lying lifeless in the street in rush hour on Wednesday evening. A queen buff-tailed bumble, Bombus terrestris, I imagine she'd just emerged from hibernation and was unable to find a food source before dusk.

I’ve seen queen bumblebees clinging to unopened crocus flowers before. It was early morning, and the bees were waiting for the sun to rise and open the blooms. If there had been such flowers for Wednesday’s bee I'd have left her where I found her, but this was a particularly built-up area of Hackney, and I was also worried she'd be trampled on by a passer by.

I picked her up and popped her into an old bit of envelope I had in my pocket, and took her home. She buzzed a little, but was otherwise too weak to object. Once home, I dropped her into an old takeaway box and made her a solution made from equal parts of sugar and water.

I’ve never seen a bee drink so much sugar solution in one sitting. It was like she’d never eaten before - even more to suggest this was her first meal since entering hibernation all those months ago. She drank for about twenty minutes without pausing and then flew around my kitchen. It was amazing to watch.

Once she’d had her fill, I put her in a box lined with shredded paper and left her a little bottle top of sugar solution. I moved the box to a window sill, where it was cool and dark so she could settle down. In the morning I gave her a fresh feed of sugar solution and let her go. Less than 12 hours later, she was almost unrecognisable as the same bee I found half dead on the street in rush hour the night before.

Lots of bumblebees will be coming out of hibernation in the next few weeks. Some of them will have no trouble finding nectar to replenish their energy levels, but others won’t be so lucky. If you find a bumblebee that’s unable to move - be it on the street or in your garden - then either gently pick her up and move her on to a flower, or make her a solution from equal parts of sugar and water. You could save her life.





Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Bumblebee rescue
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

optima 25/02/2014 at 12:08

Wish I had seen this earlier, I found a small bumblebee in the house the other day on the window blinds so I picked it up and took it outside into the garden. If I had known about the sugar solution I would have made some up, I do hope it was alright after I let it go.

Clarington 25/02/2014 at 12:10

Gosh what a simple solution that could help a bee no end!

BLEEPBLEEP388854 26/02/2014 at 09:26

a sad end to the first bee that arrived in our garden yesterday sadly it did a fly past my dog and he got it in mid-flight and killed it I lost count how many
bees he kills each year I just cant stop him as it is
not very nice to see

Dovefromabove 26/02/2014 at 10:11

Clarington wrote (see)
Gosh what a simple solution that could help a bee no end!

And that's a joke too Clari!!! 

Think I'm going to make up a little bit of sugar solution and keep it in a jamjar in the pantry so it's there ready, just in case

Clarington 26/02/2014 at 11:39

Make sure you keep the jar firmly sealed Dove - you don't want to be actively attracting the bees and wasps into your pantry!

See more comments...