Is there a way to feed wild bees?
It’s my turn to ask questions, and I have a few of them lined up. This first one just came from a reader in Texas (Mike) and I don’t have an answer for him.
Because Texas is having such a terrible drought, the wild bees are finding little to eat–a situation that doesn’t bode well for the overwintering young (generally, they each need a little pile of nectar and pollen) or the overwintering queens.
Mike put out hummingbird feeders and is attracting nothing but–you guessed it–hummingbirds. This is odd in a way because lots of beekeepers complain about honey bees frequenting hummingbird feeders and even storing pink “honey” in their combs. [Commercial hummingbird food is often colored red.]
Bees are attracted by sight and scent
Most bees are attracted to food sources by both sight and scent. Sight first, until they get close, and then scent. So if the hummingbird feeder is a color the bees don’t see, it probably wouldn’t attract bees as readily as one they can see. Also, different bees see slightly different parts of the spectrum. Honey bees, for example, don’t see red (it appears black to them) but they do see ultraviolet. I don’t know which colors other bees are sensitive to, although I often see bumble bees on red flowers. Whether the bumble bees found them by color or scent, I don’t know.
As with any other “open” food source a hummingbird feeder may attract predators (wasps) as well as bees, but apparently that is not a problem for Mike who is attracting nothing but hummingbirds.
My “feeding” of wild bees has been limited to planting flowering species they seem to like. I’ve never considered feeding them beyond that, but in such a severe drought, I can certainly understand the desire to lend them a hand. Does anyone have any experience feeding wild bees? Please send me your thoughts.