Water for Honey Bees and Beauty for You
If you are a beekeeper, you understand the importance of clean water for your bees. However, you don’t have to be a beekeeper to help bees and other insects. Providing a clean source of water for honey bees is easy to do. You will be helping not only bees but all pollinators.
Why Honey Bees Need Water
Honey bees are known for collecting plant nectar and making honey. But nectar is not the only liquid they collect. Like all living creatures, bees need water. Water is used by honey bees to mix food for baby bees. And water is used to dilute honey for eating.
The honey bee also uses water for air conditioning purposes. Controlling internal hive temperature is vital for brood development. Overheating can cause the death of baby bees.
Numerous droplets of water are placed on the surface of the honey comb. Then, worker bees fan their wings to circulate air through the colony. Air passing over the water droplets has a cooling effect. This “social ventilation” with the use of water enables honey bees to keep the temperatures of the colony in check.
Natural Water Sources for Bees
If the surrounding area is blessed with streams, creeks, rivers or other natural water sources, the bees will find and collect water. This is great because it is one less thing for a busy beekeeper to worry about. Actually, honey bees are better at finding water sources than humans.
You will see the bees carefully gathering water along the edges of the natural water sources. But, bees drown rather easily. They prefer a shallow water collection site perhaps with a gentle slope of soil, sand or pebbles.
A portion of the worker bees will be in charge of collecting water. The worker bees visit the water source. With the same pumping action used to harvest nectar, the bee sucks up water.
Stored in the honey stomach, water is carried back to the hive. Once inside the hive, these water-filled worker bees travel around the hive giving water where it is needed. Honey bee colonies do not store water in the hive. So, water collection is a constant task.
It’s Easy To Provide Water For Bees If You Would Like To:
Creating Water Sources For Bees
There are several reasons that a beekeeper may desire to provide water for honey bees. There might not be plentiful natural water sources nearby. We do not want the bees to expend tremendous amount of energy to collect water from far away.
Local water sources may be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides or other substances that are bad for bee health.
And one of the best reasons to provide water for honey bees, your neighbor has a swimming pool ! (Be a good neighbor, citizen and beekeeper and try to keep your bees out of their pool.)
Honey bees will gather water from a dependable source that is closest to the hive. Failure to have a good source of water for bees in place, before bees arrive can have bad consequences. The bees will go to a nearby swimming pool.
Consistent Water Availability Is A Must
Beekeepers have developed several ingenious ways to provide water for honey bee colonies. Some beekeepers use the common quart jar feeder. This is inexpensive and easy. However, you must never let them run out.
Small water sources are easy to create but they require more maintenance. It takes some discipline to remember to check any small water source – every day or twice a day.
The same problems applies to small fountains, buckets, etc. When hot weather arrives and your bees really need more water, will you be able to remember to refill?
How to Provide Water for Bees & Beauty for Your Yard
My favorite way to provide water for honey bees is the construction of small water gardens. I have always enjoyed my water gardens (even before becoming a beekeeper). I have had several water gardens for years.
This type of structure helps not only honey bees but is a great way to provide water for all pollinators. A water garden does not have to be a half acre pond ! Even a small water garden of 100 – 200 gallons in size holds a lot of water for honey bees.
Yes, you still have to manage the water level but it is a weekly chore rather than daily. A small pool with some plants and a few goldfish can be an educational and entertaining addition to any backyard. (You could even jump in if you don’t mind swimming with the frogs but be careful. Algae is slippery !)
Water Garden Plants Will Also Provide Food For Bees
Being a lover of all plants (except maybe Kudzu), I have several water lilies in my gardens. Each bloom is so beautiful and the honeybees do visit the blossoms ! Water gardens provide beauty in your landscape and allow your family to reconnect with nature.
Each month there is something new happening out there. Toads singing and calling mates in February. Plants starting to emerge in March. The fish become more active as the water warms in April . By May and June the water temps have risen and we see lily pads on the surface of the water and blooms beginning.
Honey bees are seen gathering water all year long on warm days. You can plant flowers that bees like around the pond area. Be sure to include a shallow place for the bees to drink without fear of drowning.
Some of my water garden marginal plants provide pollen and nectar for my honey bees. Providing a good clean source of water for honey bees can be fun, as well as, useful. Consider adding a water feature to your garden this year. The thirsty bees will be very happy.
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