WVU Extension

Why are bees swarming around my bird feeder?

Question

Bees are swarming on my bird feeder and eating all the bird seed. Birds are even staying away. I’ve never seen this before; what’s the reason for this odd behavior?

Answer

When honey bees begin to rear brood in the hive nest, some bees will leave the hive in search of food. This typically happens on days when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When no flowers are available to provide pollen, the foraging bees will turn to other sources they may encounter. Seeds that have been ground into feed for farm animal are a good example of a pollen substitute attractive to bees. Bees will even carry fresh saw dust to the nest for food. How much nutrition the bees get from sawdust is unknown.

Honey bees are unable to carry seeds back to the hive and process them for food. However they will carry small grains of broken seeds and the dust, and would even empty a bird feeder trying to get to the food.

Honey bees are only territorial of their hive and will not try and protect a food source beyond that area. Honey bees foraging away from the hive nest will only sting when immediately threatened. Stepping on a bee will provoke it to sting, but if the bee is released before a stinging occurs the bee will not pursue whatever stepped on it. Cattle will avoid grain feeder due to bees that get into the nostril and mouth when feeding. Birds may step on bees or hit them with their beak while
feeding. Birds may also just be intimidated by the presence of the bees.