Bees & Water Collection

Last summer, I spent a lot of time in our backyard trying to perfect watering and keeping our birdbath full. During this time, I noticed the number of bees gathered at the birdbath. I never thought about how or why bees drink or collect water. But after a few weeks of watching them, I decided to do more research on the subject, which is quite fascinating!

How do bees collect water? They collect water by swallowing it and storing it in a compartment called a crop in their stomach. This allows them to fly back to their nest and transfer it to another worker bee, a process known as Trophallaxis.

One reason bees collect water is for air conditioning. For their young to reach proper development, the hive needs to be kept at a temperature of 94 degrees F. To cool the hive during hot days, the bees will drop water droplets on the sealed brood or around the cell rim of the larvae. The inside worker bees will continuously fan their wings, creating air currents that evaporate the water and cool the nest area. During sweltering summer days, bees will bring in up to a gallon of water daily for the hive.

Bees also will collect water during the winter to mix with the honey so that it does not crystalize or thicken during the cold months, and they dilute it to feed their young.

After watching the bees around the birdbath, I noticed that there would be a wasp every so often. When I would refill the water the next day, more often than not, the wasp would be dead. I spent some time reading and discovered that if bees feel threatened by a wasp or smaller predator, they will (called Heat Balling)  surround the wasp and cook it until it dies, in a process called Heat Balling. Bees can heat their abdomens to a temperature of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Absolutely amazing! I did not witness this firsthand, but it seemed suspicious.

Bees are fascinating creatures who care for and protect their homes with everything they have. They work together to provide for everyone in the hive. As humans, we sure could learn a lot from these fantastic invertebrates!

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