Water: It’s what we’re made of

"come here often?"

“come here often?”

One of the most crucial requirements for choosing a location for honey bee colonies is the presence of fresh and accessible water. Honey bees need water, just like nearly everything else on this blue planet. Water quite often becomes a matter of life or death during the peak heat of summer, where temperatures within the colony must be maintained around 33-35 degrees C , so that the brood doesn’t get cooked to death. When things really start to heat up inside the hive, bees actually switch from nectar and pollen foraging to water collecting, and tell their nest mates to do so by using the Tremble Dance. Stay tuned for more on the incredible use of “dancing” in honey bee communication.

So, the forager bees have been danced at, which tells them to switch from food collection to water collection. The water is brought back to the colony, where the bees air condition the hive by evaporating the water with their wings and mouths. I have seen many creative solutions to having a lack of water in the bee yard; one being a turtle-shaped kiddie pool with sand and rocks in the bottom. The rain did a fairly good job at keeping the pool filled with water, and the gradual slope of the pool (meant for kid bums) gave the bees a spot to land safely to grab a drink. The beekeeper must ensure that the bees can access the water without drowning. Another solution I saw used near Oaxaca, Mexico was re-used plastic yogurt containers, which was very thoughtful of the beekeeper, except for the fact that the water level needed to be maintained regularly so the bees could still perch and drink.

fill 'er up!

fill ‘er up!

Regardless of how you do it, it still needs to be done, and is a necessity for overall productivity. And just as a side note, providing a watering hole is highly beneficial for other critters such as birds, butterflies, frogs, and everybody else!