THE THIRST OF A HIVE

That was the title of the second of Tom Seeley’s lectures that I attended. It hadn’t been advertised but he stepped in as Keld Brandstup wasn’t able to attend. The talk was about how a colony of bees controls its water intake. The colony is a unit, not just a collection of bees each taking a drink when they feel like it. They are able to adjust their water intake according to need as they do with other resources. Annually, a colony needs about 200+ lb of nectar, 50+ lb of pollen, 1lb of resin and 10+¬†gallons of water. Why do they need to collect water? To cool the hive and to dilute honey for food – honey is ‘hard tack’ for bees and is too concentrated for ready use.
The way the bees work is that older bees (20+ days old) find a source and collect water which they bring back. How do they know when water is needed? Personal thirst. How do they know when the hive has enough water and they can turn to other duties? They can’t find any other bees (receivers 10 – 20 days old) to relieve them of it as swiftly as before. The bees that receive the water will use or distribute it within the hive and then go back to unload another forager. If the ‘receiver’ has difficulty in disposing of the water she won’t be in a hurry to unload the next forager. In this way the colony achieves a balance between collection and consumption.
Bees will dance for a water source in the same way that they do for nectar or other necessities. Individual bees have their own favourite sources and thus site fidelity. They often seem to prefer what we would consider to be tainted water so possibly they use it as a source of minerals etc not usually to be found in nectar.

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About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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