Thirsty bees drinking from the water fountain

We’ve had a couple of hot days in March, and so I’ve been keeping the water fountain in the backgarden flowing, and the various bird baths dotted about under bushes topped up with water.

Not only have the birds had a wonderful time, cooling themselves off and vigorously sending showers of droplets into the air, but I’ve also noticed a sudden surge in the number of bees in our garden who have taken over the water fountain. Normally, we don’t have quite so many at one time, but perhaps it’s because there are so many pollen-bearing (and hayfever-causing) trees and bushes in our and our neighbours’ gardens? I’m starting to wonder whether they have a hive nearby?

Although I’m nervous of bees and avoid getting too close to them, I am very pleased to see them in our garden. They’re an essential part of our ecosystem. And what with bee colonies collapsing all over the world, threatening our future food supply, it is particularly heartening that they are still flourishing here.

According to Wikipedia, the causes of colony collapse disorder aren’t fully understood as yet.

Some authorities think it may be caused by “biotic factors such as Varroa mites and insect diseases (i.e., pathogens[6] including Nosema apis and Israel acute paralysis virus).[7][8]“. It could also be caused by “environmental change-related stresses,[9] malnutrition, pesticides (e.g. neonicotinoids such as clothianidin and imidacloprid), and migratory beekeeping”.They’ve even speculated that it might be caused by “cell phone radiation (e.g.[10]) and genetically modified (GM) crops with pest control characteristics,[11][12] though no evidence exists for either assertion.”

Of course, it could also be a combination of many factors, with the general idea being that all the environmental stressors are weakening the bees and thus making them more susceptible to pests and pathogens.

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33 thoughts on “Thirsty bees drinking from the water fountain

    • Hi Lisa – yes, I like that photo the most too. And I also find it so interesting how they all sat next to each other. I’d never actually seen bees *drinking* water before – that proboscis is amazing!

  1. hey pls can u delete my previous post? i did not see what link linked to my name… sorry.

    just to repeat… what and awesome post! well done for documenting the bees so nicely, i really enjoyed it. especially the little one w the reflection while drinking (the 4th pic)

    • Hello Juanita – as you requested, I just deleted your previous comment and approve this one instead. πŸ™‚

      Glad you like the bee pictures – I found it really difficult to get clear and focused shots of them, because they were moving so much. I guess it would’ve helped if I’d gone physically closer rather than relying solely on the telephoto zoom, and then cropping the best pics on the PC afterwards, but I instinctively get anxious when bees buzz close to my head. It’s the *sound* of that buzzing, I think… it sets alarm bells ringing in my subconscious, and my freeze-fight-flight hormones kick in without me being able to stop it.

  2. Thanks for your post and your beautiful photographs of the bees. The slideshow is lovely! I never had any problems with bees, until early one morning about 13 years ago I was stung by a bee when I stepped on it on the lawn. After 10 minutes I could not breathe and I almost died. My son drove like a maniac to get me to a hospital. So, Reggie, I prefer to look at them on your photographs! Have a great week.

    • Hello Jan – You know, I was *wondering* about exactly that: is it possible to get stung by a bee, when it’s lying on the ground? There was a time when we had a number of dead (or almost dead) bees in our garden, and I was always walking around barefoot… Is their stinger still ‘live’, when they’re dead? What a frightening experience that must’ve been for you – thank heavens your son managed to get you safely to hospital!

    • I’d be careful if I were you Reggie, especially if you may be allergic to bees like your reader Jan. I’m not sure how it works exactly but it does seem possible for dead or dying bees to sting. My mother always tells what a difficult time she had when my brother learnt to crawl as a baby. At that point we were living on a farm with an orchard and there were lots of bees around. Poor little guy would crawl along and then start bawling as he got stung. Happened over and over, she couldn’t leave him for a second.

    • It is better to wear shoes!
      When I stumbled into the hospital, looking like the Michelin Man, I could not inhale anymore and when inside I heard the doctor said to his assistant: “we are losing him”, but I was not ready to go!
      I never had a problem with bees, but one day wasps stung me 7 times in my face and according to a doctor I lost my immunity and thus reacted so heavily.
      I carried an injection with me for years after that.

    • Hi Reggie, It is an adrenaline injection. You just “stab” yourself with it. But first talk to your doctor if you are worried ( I am not a doctor ) They can also test your immunity. If you are allergic and you are somewhere walking in the veld, this injection can save your life. Enjoy your weekend!

  3. I also love your bee photos. They are so beautiful. I’ve noticed quite a few bees in my little garden too just recently… they seem to be loving my bulbinella.
    Funny how we react to things isnt it. I don’t mind bees at all, but wasps give me the heebee jeebies.

    • Oh, I’m with you on the wasps, Helen. Red wasps and black wasps will see me running the other way. They can be rather vicious when you get close to their nests – and unlike bees, they can sting you many times, without dying.

  4. Really cool photos, Reggie!

    This reminds me that I have some bee-news too, although not as exciting as this πŸ™‚

    Helen’s story about her brother getting stung while crawling around just had me thinking back to the time I was stung by a wasp as a little girl. Still have a scar to show for it. Luckily the thing was dead and my grandma was quick to rub raw onion around the spot before removing the stinger and then again on the spot afterwards. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

    • Yes, the onion is an old home remedy thing – at least, I assume so since that’s the first thing my grandmother requested.

      I’m amazed at the things our ancestors used to treat “einas” with. And I can’t help wondering how they found out that these things work?!

  5. You did a good job capturing those bees, Reggie. I have never once thought of “thirsty” bees before. Odd to think you’re coming near the end of your summer when we are only dreaming of its arrival.

  6. Bees stay here during the winter, but in their hives where they can keep warm enough to survive but of course they aren’t seen again until it warms up considerably and flower begin to bloom. It will be several more weeks at least before they will emerge.

    • Aah, that’s interesting, Montucky. Our winters in Cape Town aren’t nearly as severe as yours, as we have a more or less Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. As far as I can recall, we have different plants pretty much flowering throughout the year, even in winter. But I’ll look out this winter to see whether there are fewer bees.

  7. Fantastic photo’s Reggie. I tried photographing some bees the other day and ended up with mostly blurred blobs – so I can really appreciate the skill and patience it must have taken to get these shots.

    • Thanks, Indigigirl. What kind of camera and lens are you using?

      Blurred blobs – that’s how many of my shots looked too, actually.

      Mind you, most of the time I was trying to photograph them through a window, with a curtain and burglar bars as additional obstacles to avoid, and the light of the sun slanting in from the side, causing lens flares and spots on my not-very-clean-at-the-time lens… I’ll try to get closer to them from the outside next time.

      I wonder if a tripod will also help with additional stabilisation. If you use the telephoto (it’s “only” 250mm, which isn’t much compared to compact digital cameras) at its furthest extension, it’s quite hard to keep it perfectly steady. Even breathing makes the lens move a tiny bit, and there’s also muscle fatigue and involuntarily twitching muscles to consider when you hold the telephoto zoomed out for longer periods of time. I presume that the tripod brings its own challenges though.

      The other thing I noticed is that the automatic focus of the telephoto lens wasn’t always focusing on the right spot, and the motor kept whirring, as the camera tried to fix the focus. I ended up manually focusing, which got better results. But I don’t have very good eyesight, and the LCD and viewfinder screens aren’t all that big, so I got quite a lot of ‘wrongly’ focused images that way too.

      I also tried sports mode (for moving objects), and burst mode (three/four rapid-fire shots in quick succession), to see whether I could catch the bees in-flight, as they approached the water fountain. Erratic results, but fun to try!

  8. Hi Reggie, I love this post. We’ve suddenly got a lot of bees in our garden, which is great to see as they’ve been dying out here too. That said, some seem to be living in holes in our decorative bricks (that, I gather, don’t have access into the house, thankfully) but they’re a bit too close to the house entrance for my liking.

    I used to be terrified of bees but I’m not anymore, though I am careful of them as I’m careful of all creatures that can sting or bite.

    A curious thing though, I always thought that wasps were the only ones out of bees and wasps that didn’t die after stinging, as honeybees only sting once and then they die and wasps can sting multiple times, but I’ve just learnt that apparently Bumblebees can also sting multiple times. (We had one in our kitchen just today, I kept clear of it like I usually do, but that’s before I knew this!)

    Here’s a link to something about bees and wasps and it also has info on bee and wasp sting allergies:
    http://beespotter.mste.illinois.edu/topics/stings/#Sting_Allergies

    If you’re allergic to bees or wasps, you really should carry adrenaline with you – ask your doctor.

    Like one of your other commentors, I’ve stepped on a bee, too, though this one was alive – til I trod on it – poor thing, though it would have died anyway as they do when they lose their stings. It hurt like crazy for about half a day and then I was okay… apart from feeling sympathy for the bee, I was annoyed as it happened on one of our first wedding anniversaries!

  9. Reggie, since you try to keep your birdbath filled with *clean* water, I wonder if the bees might not just be very discriminating drinkers. They know a good watering hole and word of good drinking establishments always spreads fast πŸ™‚

    • Hahahaha!!! You might really be onto the truth there, Amy! It might also help that we have a number of herbs bearing flowers (lavender, basil, rocket, rosemary…), and a pepper tree that seems to be a rich producer of pollen round-about-now – and an equally rich source of hayfever.

  10. good photos, i also had numerous bees everyday drinking from my bird bath and i still wonder why? i also thought there might be a hive nearby. there is a person with bee hives about a 1/4 mi. from me but i watched the bees leave many times and they went always in opposite direction.

    • Hello Leslie – thanks for the comment. Yes, that does sound a bit puzzling; perhaps they are flying the round-about route back to the hives? πŸ™‚ Or perhaps there are some well-hidden hives that you can’t see?

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