Bees need water, just like us humans, on hot summer days, to drink and to cool off. When they stop at birdbaths or streams, they unfortunately risk drowning or engaging with larger animals, becoming a snack.
Biologists believe that bees probably find most of their water by scent rather than sight, so a water source with a smell will be more attractive to them. Water that smells like wet earth, moss, worms, decomposition, or even chlorine, has a better chance of attracting a bee than sparkling water straight from the tap.
To make something just for the bees, all you need is to grab a pan or shallow bowl, add a good amount of stones, pebbles or marbles, then fill it with water. The rocks and such will give the bees a nice landing spot and help them avoid drowning.
It’s best to change the water every week or so to make sure other insects don’t lay eggs. Although a bee gets most of their nutrients from nectar and pollen, some water sources that are ‘smelly’ or ‘slimy’ are rich in vitamins and micronutrients that can boost honey bee nutrition.
It is well-known that honey bees are attracted to chlorine, hence your pool if you have one (The amount of chlorine in pools is not detrimental to bees, but drowning is). Bees have eyesight that are perfect for finding flowers and evading enemies, but they’re not so good for finding water. For that, bees rely on their sense of smell. So water with an odor is more likely to be found. Other than the smell of chlorine, they all also attracted to water that contains algae, slime, fungus, and mud.
In a healthy honey bee colony, foragers collect four different things from the environment. Depending on what the colony needs at a particular time, the bees may collect nectar, pollen, propolis*, or water. Both pollen and propolis are carried in pollen baskets on the bees’ hind legs, where the water and nectar are carried internally in the crop.
*Honeybee propolis is a brown or reddish resin-like substance made by bees to protect the hive against animal and bacterial invaders. Bees use propolis as a building material to fill gaps and crevices, varnish combs and shape entrances, which sometimes create fantastic structures that supposedly aid ventilation in the hive.
Some disagree, however, It may sound like a good idea, but don’t add anything to the water. Bees are very good with directions – they may make one stop at the bee watering station in your yard and taste sugar, which could keep them returning with their friends to collect the sugar, instead of picking it up from flowers.
Honey bees can travel long distances to find what they need. Normally, a colony forages within a couple miles of home. However, in times of stress or when resources are in short supply, a bee may travel five miles to get what they need. This is not ideal because the trip may require more resources than they collect.
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HAVE FUN AND SAVE THOSE BEES!