Within the past week, about three dozen honey bees have been visiting our backyard once again. With the recent rains, our bird bath was full to capacity; its rim providing just the correct distance for bees to drink. That is correct, drink water; bees will travel up to five miles, from the hive, to find water. Like we humans, bees are mainly live sacks of water that need to keep hydrated. “…it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day." (Bug Squad: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14566)
Of course there are a variety of uses for water, including hive maintenance, honey production and the nurse bees must insure the health and well-being of the queen. Bees cannot swim, so they can drown if they fall into a water source. While the bird bath has a rim, we added flat rocks for them to perch on as well. They lower their proboscis into the water and suck it up. The proboscis is a straw-like tongue used for slurping up liquids and also for tasting. When not being used for either chore, the proboscis is folded up and stored in a groove-like structure in the bee's head.
We checked on the bees daily, making sure the water was reachable for them, and that none had fallen into the water. One night I found two floating in the water, not moving, and I feared they had passed on. Placing them into the palm of my hand, I spoke to them, telling them how sorry I was for getting there too late. I was going to recite a blessing over them, when suddenly, there was movement. Little legs began to twitch; they were alive, but needed warmth.
Bringing them into my home, I continued to cup them inside my palm, and talked to them the entire time. Slowing rising up, they both began to clean themselves thoroughly. Drooping antennae lifted upward; legs swept against bodies and wings; they began to walk and it tickled. As they became more active, their little butts began to wiggle, and I knew it was time.
Walking outdoors, one took off immediately; the second was hesitant. Simply sitting in a chair, watching the sun set, my honey bee companion and I; and then it left.
This is, for me, one of those moments that confirms why life is worth living.