In May I was walking in the woods nearby and I saw something up in front of me that was unfamiliar. As I got nearer I could see it was insects over a large puddle of water in the middle of the path.
As I got closer I could see it was bees. I had never seen them drinking before and I went closer to watch them. What I observed was that they were avoiding the deeper puddles of water and were more interested in the mud. I immediately assumed that they were Mason bees collecting mud to seal up their nests.
Luckily, a bee keeper(Adventures in Beeland) http://adventuresinbeeland.wordpress.com/ saw the post and contacted me, (see my post comments “Summer approaches in the woods”). These were not Mason bees but honey bees! There may be some variation of types within the bees but with the photographs available it is not possible to be any more definite, apart from saying that they are not Mason bees.
The first question that came to my mind was – Why are bees collecting mud? Answer – They are not collecting mud, they are drinking water even though that is not what it appears at first glance.
In fact, bees are known to seek water at some sites that look rather insalubrious to us. I first conceived a complex idea that they are in need of minerals from the soil or whatever substrate they collect the water from.
It could be a lot simpler than that. The risk of finding themselves in the water and drowning while gathering water from deeper sources is quite high. Self preservation is a strong driver in behavioural traits and this is a safer way to get water. Anecdotally, I can remember frequently seeing wasps drowned in water but never bees. Wasps will come to the edges of water dishes left out for birds but I have never noticed bees do this, although I have read that bees can be drowned while seeking water from sources like this.
Another reason for the bees to choose water from shallow sources is that the water will usually be warmer and a bee chilled by a drink of cold water will have more difficulty in flying.
I have now two improvised bee drinking stations in the garden; one with unused sponge scouring pads in a plastic container and a second in a converted bird feeder lined with straw and water and hanging in a tree. The ground is extremely porous in this area and there is very little surface water available during the day but there is always a very heavy dew which must provide them with a short-lived but convenient water supply. However, so far, the bees seem singularly unimpressed with my innovations.
I must digress here to say how much I have learned from either comments made to me or what I have picked up from reading other people’s blogs.
I have been so impressed by the quality of photographs in blogs that I have been toying with taking up photography again but I know nothing of what is required in the way of equipment. I timidly enquired at a brilliant photographic blog, Focused Moments, http://focusedmoments.net and was rewarded by really personal, focused advice which meant such a lot to me.
Taking pictures for the blog made me look more closely and think about the creatures I was photographing and made me very aware of my ignorance of the life around me, I find Bug Girl’s blog http://membracid.wordpress.com/ fascinating. An entomologist who can write, amuse and inform!
Living in the country I am sensible to the fact that my neighbours are more interested in their potagers and although I grow vegetables, I hold my flowers and trees in higher esteem than they do. So I enjoy watching other people’s gardens especially in different countries such as My Hesperides Garden (http://myhesperidesgarden.wordpress.com/) in Italy, Denobears http://denobears.wordpress.com/ in Bulgaria and The Anxious Gardener http://theanxiousgardenerdotcom.wordpress.com/ in the UK to name only a few.
I am also enjoying following the joys and tribulations of being a bee keeper and learning about the complex life of bees with Miss Apismellifer http://missapismellifera.com/ and Adventures in Beeland (http://adventuresinbeeland.wordpress.com/.
End of digression but I just had to get it out!