Who Needs Water?

by Donna Lewis

Well, we all know that every living thing needs water.

We are really experiencing a very hot and dry time right now.

This is when you can help the wildlife. Birdseed and other things we put out so we can watch and help our wildlife is a good thing, but water is the number one thing they need to survive.

I have 10 birdbaths out and I put out the sprinkler every evening around 5:00 pm.

The birds are waiting for me. I move the sprinkler about three times, so I don’t waste any water. I use it for my plants as I give the birds their cool and happy time in the refreshing raindrops the sprinklers provide. I am sure I would see them smiling if they could. Yesterday I slowly approached my garden about 10 minutes after I turned the first round of water on. They scatter if they see me and that’s OK, it keeps them safe.

This is what I saw through my fence around the garden.

  • 25 Cardinals
  • 1 Mockingbird
  • 4 young Titmice
  • 5 Bluebirds
  • 6 Chickadees
  • 2 unknowns
  • 1 Red-bellied woodpecker.   

What a photo that would have been.  I also have lots of bees getting water from the birdbaths.

So, remember to put out lots of water features and keep them full.

The birds like a perch when bathing, so a fence or trellis is good, but is also a good hiding place for cats. Most are there for the water, but the kitties are there for the birds…. 

Just a thought.

Remember who you are gardening for…

Alternatives to Feeding Sugar Water to Honey Bees

by Donna Lewis and Mary M Reed, Chief Apiary Inspector, Texas Apiary Inspection Service

You may have read Donna’s recent post about feeding honeybees on her property. She got to wondering if the sugar water she was putting out was a good idea, so she contacted Mary Reed at Texas A&M, who has spoken to our chapter before, for more information. It’s so great that we Master Naturalists can contact credible resources like Mary Reed when we have questions. Their email exchange starts below the beautiful image of a bee.

Sue Ann Kendall

Image from @Wire13 via Twenty20

Donna

I wanted to ask about something I thought was OK, but after looking at some web sites, I may be wrong. I do not want to give incorrect information out on our blog.

So, is putting out sugar water for honey bee’s bad?

Mary

Thanks for reaching out! Feeding sugar to honey bees is a method beekeepers use to strengthen their colonies as needed. It gives honey bees the energy they need to generate wax to build the comb, conduct tasks in the hive, and forage for resources in the surrounding area. 

It is recommended that if a beekeeper is going to feed their hives sugar water that they use in-hive feeders rather than open feeding. In-hive feeders help prevent robbing behavior from other colonies, and it cuts down on the possibility of disease transmission. Open feeding (i.e., placing sugar water out in a bucket, tray, etc.) increases the likelihood of disease transmission amongst hives in the area. 

Beekeepers know what they’re doing! Image from @photovs via Twenty20.

It’s also possible to see a flurry of bees coming to this open resource at certain times of the year when other nectar resources are not available. This can be alarming to some and is a potential public safety issue. 

If your readers are interested in providing a resource for bees, my best recommendation is to plant a variety of flowering plants that bloom in succession over the year. The successive blooming periods provide bees a reliable food source throughout the year. It’s fairly common in Texas to have nutritional dearths, meaning there are periods of time where there is little to no natural resources for bees to feed on, so having a succession of blooms available really helps. 

Bees like chive blossoms as much as we do, and they can appear when it’s chilly out. Image from @Anyra via Twenty20.

The other benefit to having a variety of flowering plants is that it also provides a diversity of nutrients to bees. The nutritional content of pollen can vary from plant to plant, and bees need this variety for their overall health.

I probably went way beyond what you were expecting for this question, but I hope this information is helpful.  If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Donna

I think I will discontinue with the sugar water and just do what I always do and provide lots of shallow water containers for them.

In the near future I hope we can meet again and share more knowledge about our pollinator friends with our chapter and the public.

Mary

No problem! I’m happy to help out any time.  To be honest, providing a consistent water resource for bees is one of the best things you can do. We don’t often think about how insects need and utilize water for their own survival, but for bees it’s especially important when it comes to thermoregulating their hive. 

Yum! Photo by @billyves12 via Twenty20.

I like to provide some type of water resource year round, but especially in the warmer months when bees are using the water to cool down their hives.