How to give your bees access to reliable water sources
Did you know that bees themselves consume water using their front legs, while they suck up water into their stomachs for evaporation cooling within the hive or using water to dilute the stored honey?
Anyways, as with all in beekeeping topics there are several options on how to keep your bees hydrated and giving them a reliable water source which allow them to keep their hives cool, and or allow them to dilute the stored honey for their own consumption.
The main thing about water sources is that they need to be reliable and preferably setup before you place your bees onsite, as in some cases its very difficult to re-train of using a different source other than your neighbors swimming pool for instance.
Another important fact is to keep your water source around 10-20 meters away from your bee approach and departure path to the hive as you intend to avoid getting the water source contaminated by bee poop and them getting sick over time.
Automated bush watering solution for rural setups using IBCs:
In our case we are using a solar water bore to pump water into our main water tower, and using its gravity fed water pressure along all our different watering solutions. We use simple float valves to keep Intermediate Bulk Containers or IBCs full of water at all times. Giving the bees ample water supplies during the very hot summer month is critical. Using the IBCs with float valves we could reduce our time and efforts to an absolute minimum, and only need to check every month if the IBCs are still at level. We also use 2x IBCs on every site, this to have some redundancy in case one IBC starts to leak until the next inspection.
We had used all sorts of floats, from foam polystyrene foot mats to wooden pieces and cloth stuck into the float mats. However duckweed / Lemnoideae seems to work best overall and provides the largest surface for the bees to pickup water without burning their feet on the hot plastic of wood surface or drowning.
We also noticed a decrease in water evaporation due to having the duckweed insulate the surface and has proven to work well for us. Over time you will begin to have shrubs and little trees settle on the floats and start to house permanent guests likes frogs etc.
We have inserted a pipe reaching the bottom of the IBC into one corner and inserted the float valve, this to avoid any floating debris to clog up the float valve, such as the duckweed for instance.
In order to give the valves a longer life we also keep them out of the sun.
If you are lucky enough to have a pond within your garden, then you can consider your water source problem solved in the best possible way!
Clay pebbles are a great water source as it avoids the bees drowning and they can easily suck out the moisture they require. I am using the following in my own backyard, and over time palm trees are taking over adding a little shade to it. I've drilled a few overflow holes into to the side and keep this attached to my irrigation system, so its zero touch and works well.
Anything which has a constant dripping supply of water will attract the bees on hot days!
In summer dripping air-con units can attract bees too! Bees can in absence of anything else also get interested in your dripping Aircon unit.
That's the water source you intend to avoid being used, hence you setup the water source prior bringing in bees into your backyard first. If you forget, they won't forget the first viable water source found!