Water Brings All The Bees To The Bar!

Tales from my world by Nelle Chapman

It’s another sunny day out and the temperature starts to creep up again after another hot uncomfortable night. As I wander around my garden to check on whatever is left standing as this long drought continues, I find myself at the pond in the east garden. Made from an old bath nestled in the native garden, the pond is a haven for wildlife. It’s the saloon bar for bees and other insects, with tadpoles swimming laps and other water loving critters and lizards enjoying a dip. Small finches, Superb Blue Wrens, Magpies and the King Parrots drink from it, an occasional cat, kelpie or a horse (if they’re been persistent enough to push the gate) stops by to grab a cool drink with a lily to go!

As I stand at the mossy edge observing the hustle bustle of the pond patrons I’m intrigued by the humble bee. I duck inside to fetch my camera and I perch on the pond edge to watch the bees interact around it. They land, drink, dive. One bee darts off, and another flies in to take their place. As I sit in the quiet shade of the native trees I witness the way their tongues suck up water while they simultaneously pump their abdomen and it reminds me of the giant aircranes at the dams fighting fires through the hot summer season. I consider whether the design of the large air tankers is modelled on the clever bee! As I video the bees to capture their drinking process I’m reminded about how truly incredible nature is.

Bees are an extraordinary insect. They buzz from flower to flower collecting pollen, an important food for their colonies. The bee is covered in pollen from the male part of the flower, the stamen, which it transfers to the grains on the female part, the stigma, of the next flower they fly to. Once the pollen arrives on the stigma it moves into the ovary where it fertilises to become a seed which germinates and grows. Not only do bees support the natural ecosystem, they also support human food and crop cycles, put simply, their contribution to the planet and human life cannot be under estimated.  

Water is critical for diluting the gelatinous food secreted from the head glands of nurse bees, so that the developing larvae, drones, worker bees and the Queen can swallow the food. Bees need water to maintain hive temperature and humidity. Designated water bees are charged with searching for water and can travel up to eight kilometres a day on their quest. They often enlist more bees on their journey to help them in their search and collection of water.

One of the pond patrons photographed by Nelle

One of the pond patrons photographed by Nelle

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I always know when the dams are really low as the population of bees increases around the water troughs and in the garden. Bees gather in large numbers, but the only ones that get a tad upset about the intrusion are the horses. Our thoroughbred is often seen kicking or hopping to avoid a pesky bee buzzing and while it’s funny to watch from the comfort of the veranda, it’s a very different story if you’re atop said horse when a bee momentarily rests on the rump!

During drought and high temperatures, it’s even more important to ensure there’s water around gardens and hives so bees have access to enough water to be able to produce their liquid gold and continue the critical task of pollination. Ponds, troughs with ledges, rocks and places bees can easily rest on to drink are really important. Water can be moving, or stagnant and swimming pools are often a water source that bring all the bees to the bar!

On my journey to understand more about the brilliant bee, I uncover the existence of World Bee Day. In a bid to draw the attention of the Global Public towards the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators, in 2017 it was decided by the General Assembly of the United Nations that the twentieth of May would be devoted to celebrating World Bee Day every year. The idea was initially proposed by Slovenia, a country that has one beekeeper to every two hundred people. The significance of this date is that Slovenia was also the birthplace of Anton Janscha, an innovative beekeeper of his time, born on the twentieth of May in 1734.

Today is the second year we celebrate World Bee Day, and in many parts of Australia, we dually commiserate a prolonged drought. Hopefully the bee will continue to thrive and pollinate our crops to feed the world and hopefully, the rain will return to drought-stricken parts of Australia. Even though the water is not on tap like it used to be, I’ll keep servicing my pond as best I can, and I really hope bees will still buzz by my bar.