Bees Need Water Too

You may not realize it, but bees need water too.  They will seek out water sources close to their hive. They use water to cool the hive on hot days, to dilute honey and to help with digestion and metabolizing their food. Luckily, I have a pond with a waterfall in my front yard that the bees congregate to during the day.

Bees drinking water along the edge of my pond.

Bees-Drinking-Water-2Bees drinking water along the edge of my pond.

Bees-Drinking-Water-3

Here they are at the top of the waterfall. When the pump is off, water gathers at the top making it easy for the bees to drink.

Here is a video of them flying all around the pond while the waterfall is turned off.

Fall Honey Flow: Brazilian Pepper

Here in South Florida the bees get a nice treat during late September through early November, a large fall honey flow from the Brazilian pepper trees.  This honey has a nice golden color and the flavor is mild with a slight “kick” to it, however it is not spicy as some may think because of the name.  I actually prefer it over orange blossom honey.

It is such a large honey flow that the bees will swarm if you don’t split them ahead of time.  So we use the long Labor Day weekend to make our splits and prevent swarming.

Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), also called Florida Holly, is an invasive species originating from South America. It is actually illegal to cultivate, sell or transport the seeds and plant.  It is a very fast growing tree that spreads quickly and overtakes other native vegetation.  It is very hard to eradicate because of how easy it proliferates.

Despite the negative perception many people have about the trees, we like them because our bees love them.  We fully understand the environmental impacts is has had on native plants, but at the same time with honey bees on the decline, they need food sources too. This tree provides a great amount of honey for them to store and survive on during winter when not many other flowers are blooming.

Brazilian pepper flowers

Brazilian pepper flowers

Close up of flowers, they are very tiny.

Close up of Brazilian pepper flowers, they are very tiny.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you're wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you’re wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Even drones being produced too!

Even drones being produced too!

Capped Brazilian pepper honey.

Capped Brazilian pepper honey waiting to be extracted.

Look at that beautiful golden honey - liquid gold.

Look at that beautiful golden honey – liquid gold.

Spanish Needle

Spanish Needle (Bidens alba) is a wildflower that blooms year round in South Florida. It is a source of both pollen and nectar for bees.  Many people consider it a weed because it can spread very quickly and has seeds that are hard to remove from clothing and pet’s fur.  I used to consider it a weed too until I started beekeeping and realized it is a great wildflower for them.

Bee on Spanish Needle flower

Bee on Spanish Needle flower

2 bees on Spanish Needle flowers

2 bees on Spanish Needle flowers (The second one is close to the bottom of the photo.)

Spanish Needle growing in my backyard

Spanish Needle growing in my backyard

There is an area in my backyard full of it, but I resist cutting it because I see my bees and many other native foragers enjoying the pollen and nectar this plant provides.

Yummy Nectar

Our front yard has a collection of succulents and cacti.  Many of these flower throughout the year providing a nice source of nectar for our bees.

We have a large Kalanchoe marnieriana plant that produces pink-orange flowers full of nectar.

Kalanchoe-marnieriana

Kalanchoe-flower-nectar

We also have several aloe vera plants that bloom. These have longer pink flowers which also provide a source of nectar.  Here are two bees foraging.

Foraging-on-aloe

Nothing beats the joy of seeing your bees finding food right from your own yard.

Foraging Bee

It has been a mild December for us here is South Florida.  Our hives have been reduced down to one brood chamber, but the bees are active and foraging.  So far our average day time temperatures have been 77-80° F (25-27° C).  With our temperate climate there is always some type of flower in bloom year round.  Right now Florida Pusley (Richardia scabra), also commonly called Mexican Clover, is blooming everywhere. Many people consider it a weed, but its small white-purplish flowers are a good source of pollen and nectar for bees.

This worker bee was foraging in my backyard.

You can see the white fuzzy pollen all over her head and she already has some yellow pollen in her pollen basket.

You can see the white fuzzy pollen all over her head and she already has some yellow pollen in her pollen basket.

Taking flight.

Foraging Bee3

Here you can actually see the her wings are damaged, but she had no problem flying from flower to flower.

Here you can actually see that her wings are damaged, but she had no problem flying from flower to flower.

Off she goes again!

Off she goes again! Loaded with pollen.

Foraging Bee6

Foraging Bee7