Walking on water – be kind to our pollinators

In March, we began to see the return of the honeybees. Even though spring had sprung, winter didn’t want to release her hold fully.

During the day, the sun warmed the water at the watering stations and the bees were thirsty. However, as the sun began to set, it was becoming usual to find bees lying in the water.

Quickly removing them from the cold liquid, some were revived and sent on their way back to the hive. Sadly, at least one, nightly, did not revive and its tiny soul was sent away with a blessing.

The small branches and flat rocks placed inside the stations were not doing their intended job – keeping the bees out of the water. What to do, what to do?

This question was suddenly answered by a photo on, of all places, Facebook. It showed a deep metal bowl full of marbles and water with bees safely out of the water, walking atop the marbles.

Our watering stations are heavy plastic storage containers with lids a half inch deep.

Their new use was a happy accident. While cleaning out a shed, they were left outside. When it began to rain the lids filled with water.

Afterward, we noticed the bees sitting on the rim, their tiny proboscises sucking up the precious liquid. Adding the small branches and flat stones, the bees were able to move over the water, giving each other room to share.

Of course, this didn’t keep them from falling into the water, and if not rescued quickly, going into forever sleep.

Before I forget, each storage container is wedged inside a tire. It keeps the containers from being blown over by the wind.

Also, when the dogs are playing soccer, the ball and the dogs themselves will bounce off the tire. The containers might shake slightly but definitely do not tip over, sending water, stones, and bees tumbling to the ground.

Several flowering plants have begun growing around the tires, so the bees have a pollen and water source within reach.

Experiment time! Being given a garden pot full of florist stones, I now had a use for them. I washed them in hot water only (one should not use soap as residue will contaminate the drinking water).

Now here is where it got a little nerve-racking for a minute or so. I removed the branches and rocks, dumping the old water and cleaning out dirt and debris.

No, that is not the “heart skipped a beat” moment. That came when several of the bees showed up, landed on my hair, and waited.

Take a deep breath. Find that Zen spot. Add the clean stones to cover the bottom and up to the rim of the lid. I added clean water and a few flat agate stones for diversity, and the bees flew down to try it out!

Having a dozen or more honeybees attaching themselves to one’s hair or shirt, buzzing and vibrating is an adrenaline shot to the system. Not being stung, not once, then having them fly down to the water is, well, a precious, priceless moment.

Then again, that’s my take on my place in this vast universe – a caregiver and nurturer of nature’s creatures.

Having a bench nearby, I sat, watched, and waited. I needed to know if the experiment would be a success.

As bees flew away, more would come, and then more. None were falling into the water either. They walked over the stones, their tiny heads dipping downward and tiny rear ends happily vibrating.

Now I needed to create the second watering station, but I was out of stones. And, of course, I could not find my jars of marbles.

I rushed to one local store, but it didn’t carry florist stones or marbles. (What? Don’t kids play with marbles anymore?).

Then I tried Unique Creations (116 South Main Street, Monticello, UT 84535, 435-587-3355), and there they were. Bags of florist stones of different shapes, sizes, and colors, and each bag was only 99 cents!

At home, the process of washing in hot water, cleaning the second plastic lid, and adding stones and clean water began again. As with “Field of Dreams,” it was built and they did come.

In fact, with the blooming of the plum trees in May, a third station was built. The honey bees designated to collect pollen are in the trees while the water gatherers are nearby.

To keep pollen as available as possible, wildflower seeds were planted around the tire the container is wedged into.

Do not be surprised if the watering stations have to be refilled, up to three or more times per day. Setting them up in sunny areas will keep the bees warm, but also evaporate the water.

Add the fresh water slowly, as the bees will push themselves between the stones and you don’t want to accidentally drown any.

The stones are bright, multicolored, and there is much hope that other pollinators will become attracted to the watering stations. Butterflies, hummingbird moths, and hummingbirds are also pollinators and just as important to our existence as the bees.

Hummingbird feeders have been set up, but well away from the bees’ domain. Why? The sweet liquid attracts insects such as flies and wasps.

In fact, there is a particular wasp, the yellow jacket, which looks very similar to a honey bee. Honey bees have hairy front and middle legs, used as brushes to comb the pollen off the body.

Pollen is packed into hairy recesses, called pollen baskets or corbiculae, on the rear legs. The wings are more oval-shaped, and their overall demeanor is calm, not aggressive.

Yellow jackets have shiny, smooth, and hairless bodies with long tapered wings and are quite aggressive. They will integrate themselves into a “gathering party,” fly back to the hive, and attempt to take it over, which means killing the honey bees.

So, with all the talk in the news about ways to save our planet, if you aren’t sure of your part in this, focus on pollinators. Find out what species are in the area, what their needs are, and how to attract them.

“Pollination is one of nature’s most important functions; it is the way many plants reproduce. Pollinators assist plants with reproduction; they take pollen from one plant to another.

“If plants aren’t properly pollinated, they can’t bear fruit or produce seeds to grow new plants.” (The Importance of Pollinators by Joe Lamp’l, www.growingagreenerworld.com)

To watch a video, of the honey bees at a watering station, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jea2AUT7BW8.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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