Monday, 8 August 2016

The Water Carrier !

On a hot summer's day, as I attempted to trim the grass around the base of the bird bath, I found myself ducking and diving in an attempt to avoid the steady stream of Western Honey Bees visiting the bird bath and quenching their thirst, or that was my first thought, strange so many Bees all thirsty at the same time, something more going on here I thought.

I noticed a Honey Bee on the water's edge with a nice reflection, a photo opportunity if ever there was one. A Honey Bee sucking up water with a reflection, preferably a head on shot, sounded easy in my head, not so practically, this was the closest I could get to the image I was after.

We have been experiencing a hot dry spell recently, so the Western Honey Bee Nest wherever it may be, was in need of some water, judging by the number of "Foragers" as they are known visiting the bird bath.

Forager Western Honey Bee
It appears that Bees prefer water with some green slime growth in it, my Bird bath is filled with fresh rain water from the water butt, so must be to their liking, probably is a bit of green slime there I'm ashamed to say, but now I can say it's to encourage the Bees as well as the Birds.

Here is the clever bit, the "forager Bees" after finding a suitable water source, suck it up through their proboscis  and store it in their crops before returning to their hive. The water is then transferred to waiting "in-hive workers", through a process called  trophallaxis basically a transfer  from one bee to another through their proboscis.

Here's another clever bit, if the "in-hive workers" are slow to unload the water, the foragers sense that the need for water has lessened and fewer bees return for more.

 I wonder how the in-hive workers let the foragers know that water is required ?

Water is very important to the community of bee's within the hive for the following reasons.

It is used by the in-hive workers to cool the interior of the hive, a thin film of water is smeared over the sealed brood or the rims of the cells containing larvae and eggs. The in-hive workers then fan vigorously, setting up air currents which evaporate the water and cool the inside of the hive, very clever.

Secondly, the nurse Bees who feed the larvae have a high demand for water, it is they that consume pollen,nectar and water so that they can produce the jelly that's used to feed the larvae.

Thirdly, the use of water is required in the winter months when the stored honey can crystallise as it dries, the Bees need the water to dilute the crystals back into a liquid before they can eat it

I have only witnessed the Honey Bees taking water from the bird bath and the occasional Wasp.

So much going on in the garden that you take for granted, nice to know whats going on.


  1. That's really interesting. Wonderful animals

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  3. Hello Mr. Merlin 52,
    I have been enjoying your blog and the accompanying photographs. I was hoping you wouldn't mind contacting me directly about the possibility of my using parts of your photos as a reference for my art.
    If this is a possibility, could you please contact me at
    Thank you so much,
    Mary Lou Fritz