Honey bees have the ability to accomplish a remarkable feat for a cold-bloodied animal: They regulate the temperature of their nest throughout the year. Whenever the honey bees have brood in the hive, they maintain the temperature of the brood nest at around 95 degrees. The brood is the developing stages of the bees: eggs, larvae, and pupae. In this region, there is brood present over most of the year. Only during a short period in the winter do the bees completely stop producing brood. In the summer here in the Arkansas Delta, the honey bees have to cool the hive down to an internal temperature of 95 degrees. To cool the hive, foraging worker bees seek sources of water; and they carry the water back to the hive in their honey gut. Inside the hive, the water is used to cool the hive by worker bees fanning their wings to evaporate water and circulate cooled air. The returning foragers pass off the water to bees waiting to fan the hive. The foragers will continue to forage for water as long as workers accept their water. When the water is no longer needed, the foragers hold the water in their honey gut. The honey bees themselves act as a storage device, as the bees don’t store water in the hive.
The honey bees will bring water back to the bee hive from any available source. They prefer a source located in the sun. Water with a flavor is preferred by the bees over clean, flavorless water. For this reason, honey bees are attracted to suburban swimming pools treated with chemicals. Bird baths and pet watering bowls are also favored watering places for honey bees. Beekeepers provide water for the bees and often position bee yards on the east side of trees to provide afternoon shade to help cool the hives in the summer. By the way, I was on my hands and knees yesterday taking this picture of honey bees foraging in one of the poultry watering bowls when a bobcat grabbed a chicken close behind my back. The bees were too busy to notice the commotion.