Water is essential for the survival of all living creatures, including honeybees. Both domesticated and feral bees rely on a reliable and clean water source throughout the year. While water is necessary for quenching their thirst, it also serves other important purposes within the honeybee colony. Therefore, it is crucial to have colonies situated near a clean water source, especially during hot summer months or colder seasons.
How Bees Collect Water
Worker bees, responsible for providing food for the colony, venture outside the hive to gather pollen, nectar, propolis, and water. While nectar and water can be carried in their crops, pollen and propolis are stored in pollen baskets on their hind legs. Bees specialize in collecting a single substance for the day, passing it mouth-to-mouth to another worker bee before returning to collect more. They will continue collecting water until they can no longer find a bee willing to accept their load.
Interestingly, bees are attracted to water with a certain smell. They may be more drawn to water in stagnant ditches, muddy holes, wet leaves, or slimy flower pots due to the aromas of salt and chlorine, which are appealing to them.
How Bees Use Water
While bees collect water like they do pollen and nectar, they do not store it inside the beehive. Instead, the collected water serves various purposes:
1. Thinning/Diluting Honey
Water is used to thin honey, making it easier for young bees to consume. The nurse worker bees also use water to create special brood food, such as royal jelly, which is essential for feeding the young bees.
2. Maintaining Optimal Hive Conditions
Honeybee colonies require specific humidity and temperature levels for the survival of young bees and brood. Water helps regulate the temperature within the hive and prevents honeycombs from melting under high temperatures. Bees use evaporative cooling by placing water droplets on the honeycomb surface.
The Importance of Providing Water in Beekeeping
Throughout the year, honeybees require a consistent water supply. Water demand is particularly higher during hot summer months, and a water shortage during this time can be fatal for both the bees and those living near the apiary.
Beekeepers should provide a clean water source to keep bees away from unwanted places such as neighbor’s pools, urban areas, or farms that use chemicals. By providing water, beekeepers can prevent bees from seeking water from potentially contaminated sources, such as rainwater run-off containing pesticides. Additionally, a nearby water source reduces the distance bees need to travel and allows them to focus on other tasks within the hive.
Providing the Best Water Source for Honeybees
A reliable water source should be provided for honeybees throughout the year. The water should be placed in a safe location and be easily accessible for the bees, with shallow areas and rocks or pebbles to prevent drowning.
If bees are not attracted to the provided water, planting bee-friendly flowers around the water source can help. These flowers should be located near the shallow ends of ponds to prevent bees from drowning. Bees are attracted to water with specific smells such as moss, worms, wet earth, chlorine, aquatic plants, or decomposing matter, so incorporating these scents can make the water more enticing to them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if bees are not using the provided water source?
If bees are not using the water source provided, you can try enhancing it with bee-friendly flowers or scents that attract bees. Placing the water source near the shallow ends of ponds and ensuring it’s easily accessible can also help encourage the bees to use it.
Can bees drown in the water source?
To prevent bees from drowning, it’s important to provide a shallow water source with rocks or pebbles that allow the bees to land and safely collect water without the risk of drowning.
Why is it important for beekeepers to provide a clean water source?
Providing a clean water source helps keep bees away from potentially contaminated water sources, such as neighbor’s pools or areas with chemical runoff. It also reduces the distance bees need to travel, allowing them to focus on essential tasks within the hive.
Providing a clean water source for honeybees is vital for their survival and productivity. Whether it’s a small pond or a water container, it is important to have a reliable water source near the apiary. By doing so, beekeepers can ensure that their bees stay away from contaminated water sources and focus on their essential tasks within the hive. Building a water source for bees can be an enjoyable and beneficial activity for both bees and beekeepers.