Red Alert!

By Kathy Keatley Garvey (Bug Squad-Happenings in the insect world) May 14, 2012

Our yard is filled with such bee friendly plants as salvia, lavender, catmint and rock purslane. 

Lately, however, the honey bees have taken a liking to the sugar-water mixture from our hummingbird feeder. Manufacturers' bee guards are meant to deter them but frankly, we rather like attracting both the hummers and the buzzers.

"The bees are hungry," said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the University of California, Davis and Washington State University.

We like watching the honey bees gather at the "red fountain" as the sun sets. They buzz excitedly around the feeder, sip what they think is a nectar of the gods, and head back to their hive. Soon more of their sisters arrive to partake.

So, will the honey bees make red honey from the sugar-water mixture in the hummingbird feeder? No. The honeycomb will be tinted red, but it's not honey, said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. It's syrup. Sugar syrup.

Subscribe to Kathy Keatley Garvey's Bug Squad blog: