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Creating a Honeybee
A clean supply of water is absolutely essential for the
operation of a honeybee colony. Bees use water for cooling the hive by evaporation,
and for thinning honey to be fed to larva. Bees collecting water is almost
as common a sight as bees on flowers. A strong hive on a hot day can use
over a quart of water a day, this occupies 800 workers each making up to
50 trips to the water hole a day.
Bees are experts at locating water. Unfortunately they
can quickly become a nuisance to neighbors who may not enjoy the company
of bees as much as you do. As beekeepers, it's our responsibility to provide
water for our bees. A colony is more efficient if workers don't have to
travel far for water. The basic requirements for a bee water source is that
the bees have a good footing so that they don't fall in and drown, and that
the water stays fresh. We have found that a small artificial pond is a beautiful
and self sustaining solution.
Certain plants are particularly suitable and favored as
a platform for water foraging bees. These plants float on the surface with
their roots hanging down in water, so they adjust to any water level in
the container. They provide a good secure foothold for the bees while they
take up their load of water.
Salvinia - This plant
is a floating fern about 1"-4"long. It is particularly attractive
to bees as a watering platform. A close look at the leaf surface reveals
that it is covered with thousands of hairlike "loops", similar
to velcro. A better foothold for bees is hard to imagine.
Frogbit - This floating plant
has buoyant lily pad like leaves. It spreads by sending out runners and will
form solid mats when crowded. Bees collect water from between the leaves.
Instructions for starting your pond
A pond is a balanced, self sustaining ecosystem
not just a hole with water in it. The beauty of a pond is that given the
proper elements it finds it's own balance.The water is always fresh and
clean. The essential elements besides water are plants, snails and fish,
each one recycling the other's waste products. Ponds seem to magically attract
all sorts of other creatures such as frogs, birds and dragonflies, all of
which make a pond almost as interesting to observe as your beehives.
Just about any container will do for a pond, barrels, buckets,
tubs, a hole with a plastic liner, or preformed plastic ponds. The ideal
dimensions are probably not more than 2 feet deep so that some sun can reach
to the bottom. Containers which are wider than they are deep work well.
Placement of your pond should be in the full sun or partial
shade. A good rule of thumb is that bees prefer warm water when the weather
is cold and cool water when it is hot. Don't place it under the main flight
path of the apiary, you don't want the bees to defecate in it. It's also
better not to place it under trees which will drop leaves into it.
Maintenance - No pumps, filters,
chemicals, fertilizer, or even fish food are required for a balanced pond.
Like lakes, ponds tend to accumulate nutrients, a process called "eutrophication".
Plants will grow very well with all these nutrients and tend to overcrowd.
Maintenance is mostly a matter removing excess growth and thus excess nutrients.
Anytime sunlight, water and nutrients come together, algae will grow. By
keeping most of the surface covered with other types of plants, algae will
be starved for sunlight and be kept to a minimum.
The following items can be purchased at pet stores or pond
supply stores. They will help balance the pond.
Goldfish are very hardy and
work well in bee ponds. They eliminate any mosquitoes and their waste products
feed the plants. Small feeder fish (Comets) are available from pet stores
for about 10¢ each. Mosquito fish (Gumbosa) also grow well in ponds
and are sometimes available free from vector control agencies.
Aquatic snails - Japanese trap
door snails and ramshorn snails tirelessly traverse the pond, eating algae
and recycling waste products into fertilizer for the plants. These two species
of snails are especially good because they won't damage the live plants.
Submerged plants - Aquarium
plants such as Elodea and Anarachis are also available at pet stores They
are important for fish and snails which help keep the pond in balance.
introduce plants into natural waterways, ecosystems are easily upset. Water
Hyacinth, for example chokes rivers and is considered the world's worst
Lilipons water gardens
William Tricker, Inc.
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