We know that planting flowering plants will go a long way to help our local honeybees. They need more than pollen and nectar from flowers however. Providing a source of clean water will help them thrive.
As I was potting up plants the other day, I was reminded how important water is to honeybees. Bees were collecting water from a bucket I have sitting out near the potting bench. I keep this bucket full just so bees have a place nearby to collect water – they’re also fun to watch.
Bees use water during the summer to cool their hives. They spread the collected water around inside the hive. Then bees inside use their wings to fan air over the water causing it to evaporate quickly which cools the hive.
They like to keep the inside of the hive at about 93 degrees F. You can imagine how warm it can get inside of an enclosed beehive exposed to the summer sun. Even during cooler days, the hive temperature can rise due to body heat generated by all of the activity of thousands of bees – sort of like when thousands of sports fans get together inside a basketball arena with no air conditioning.
My bucket is out of the way where no one can bother it. Sometimes the bees are so intent on getting water that they will accidentally bump into people passing by.
I timed individual bees and found out that it takes just about one minute for a bee to land, fill up with water and head back to the hive. On a nice day earlier this week, the bees were drawing down one or two inches of water a day. I know that my bucket is just one source of water for this hive and that they were using much more water than that.
Even though we have moved into late summer, it’s not too late to provide your neighborhood bees with fresh water. Just be sure to change the water often to keep mosquitoes from breeding in it.