Honey bee workers forage for four things that they bring into the bee hive: nectar, pollen, propolis, and water. Nectar is the sugary secretion of flowers that bees convert into honey. Pollen, also a product of flowers, is a necessary component of bee food that contains protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Propolis is a sticky substance that bees gather from the saps and gums of trees. It is the “bee glue” that honey bees use to seal cracks and openings in the bee hive, and, due to its antimicrobial properties, protect the hive from pathogens. Water is an important part of the life of a honey bee colony. Bees require water for metabolic processes; they use water to dilute stored honey for consumption in the hive; and they use water to help cool the hive. Honey bees are quite adept at regulating the environment inside the bee hive. Whenever there is brood in the hive, which is most of the year, the bees regulate the hive temperature to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Bees must cool the hive in the summer. They do this in part by fanning their wings across droplets of water. With July temperatures above 95 degrees, the bees are foraging heavily for water.
A bee hive consumes lots of water. It is important for the beekeeper to ensure a reliable source of water for all bee yards. Unless an apiary is located near a natural body of water, like a lake or stream, artificial water sources should be provided. Because scout bees share the flavor of water that they find, bees prefer water with a taste. Bees will readily forage from pet or livestock watering containers. Bees also like to collect water from swimming pools; and, for this reason, beekeepers need to provide an attractive water source close to urban hives as part of their Good Neighbor efforts. In today’s photo, honey bees float on duckweed and water lilies in my goldfish ponds to collect water.--Richard