Friday, May 21, 2021

Being Kind to our Pollinators.

March of this year, we began to see the return of the honey bees.  Even though spring had sprung, winter did not want to release her hold fully.  During the day, the sun warmed the water at the watering stations, and the bees were thirsty.  However, as the sun began to set, it was becoming usual to find bees lying in the water.  Quickly removing them from the cold liquid, some were revived and sent on their way back to the hive.  Sadly, at least one, nightly, did not revive and its tiny soul was sent away with a blessing.

The small branches and flat rocks placed inside the stations were not doing the intended job; keeping the bees out of the water.  What to do, what to do?  This question was suddenly answered by a photo on, of all places, Facebook.  It showed a deep metal bowl, full of marbles and water; the bees safely out of the water, walking atop the marbles.  Now our watering stations are heavy plastic storage containers, the lids a half inch deep.  Their new use was a happy accident.  While cleaning out a shed, they were outside, it began to rain and the lids filled with water.  Afterwards, we noticed the bees sitting on the rim; their tiny proboscises sucking up the precious liquid. Adding the small branches and flat stones, the bees were able to move over the water, giving each other room to share.  Of course, this did not keep them from falling into the water, and if not rescued quickly, going into forever sleep.

Before I forget, each storage container is wedged inside a tire.  It keeps the containers from being blown over by the wind.  Also, when the dogs are playing soccer, the ball, and the dogs themselves, will bounce off the tire.  The containers might shake slightly, but definitely not tip over, sending water, stones and bees tumbling to the ground.  Several flowering plants have begun growing around the tires, so the bees have a pollen, and water, source within reach.

Experiment time!  Being given a garden pot full of florist stones, I now had a use for them.  I washed them in hot water only; do not use soap as any residue will contaminate the drinking water.  Now here is where it got a little nerve wracking for a minute or so.  Removing the branches and rocks, dumping the old water and cleaning out any dirt and debris.  No, that is not the “heart skipped a beat” moment; it was several of the bees showing up, landing on my hair and waiting.  Deep breath, find that Zen spot; add the clean stones to cover the bottom and up to the rim of the lid.  Add clean water, a few flat agate stones for diversity; and the bees flew down to try it out! 

Container wedged into tire; wildflower seeds will be spread around tire.

Add florist stones, quartz, agate.

Add water.

Our first visitor to the new watering station.

Having a dozen, or more, honey bees, attaching themselves to one’s hair, or shirt; buzzing and vibrating, is an adrenaline shot to the system.  Not being stung, not once; then having them fly down to the water is, well, a precious, priceless moment.  Then again, that is my take on my place in this vast universe; a caregiver and nurturer of nature’s creatures.

Having a bench nearby, I sat, watched and waited; I needed to know if the experiment would be a success.  As bees flew away, more would come, and then more; none were falling into the water either.  They walked over the stones, their tiny heads dipping downward, and tiny rear ends happily vibrating.  Now I needed to create the second watering station, but was out of florist stones; and, of course, I could not find my jars of marbles.  I rushed to one local store, but it did not carry florist stones or marbles (what, don’t kids play with marbles anymore!?!)   Then I tried Unique Creations (116 South Main Street, Monticello, UT, 84535, (435) 587-3355), and there they were.  Bags of florist stones, different shapes, sizes, colors, and each bag only 99 cents!

Florist stones in a variety of shapes and colors.

At home, the process of washing in hot water, cleaning the second plastic lid, adding stones and clean water, began again.  As with “Field of Dreams”, it was built and they did come.  In fact, with the blooming of the plum trees this month of May, a third station was built.  The honey bees designated to collect pollen are in the trees, while the water gatherers are nearby.  To keep pollen as available as possible, wildflower seeds were planted around the tire the container is wedged into.  Do not be surprised if the watering stations have to be refilled, up to 3, or more, times per day.  Setting them up in sunny areas will keep the bees warm, but also evaporate the water.  Add the fresh water slowly, as the bees will push themselves between the stones, and you do not want to accidentally drown any.

Water Station #1

Water Station #2

Water Station #3 by plum trees.

The stones are bright, multicolored, and there is much hope that other pollinators will become attracted to the watering stations.  Butterflies, hummingbird moths and hummingbirds are also pollinators; and just as important, to our existence, as the bees.  Hummingbird feeders have been set up, but well away from the bees’ domain.  Why?  The sweet liquid attracts insects such as flies and wasps. 

In fact, there is a particular wasp, the yellow jacket, which looks very similar to a honey bee. Honey bees have hairy front and middle legs, used as brushes to comb the pollen off the body. Pollen is packed into hairy recesses, called pollen baskets or corbiculae, on the rear legs.  The wings are more oval shaped, and their overall demeanor is calm, not aggressive.    Yellow jackets have shiny, smooth and hairless bodies; long tapered wings, and are quite aggressive.  They will integrate themselves into a “gathering party”, fly back to the hive, and attempt to take it over which means killing the honey bees.  I recently found out that a neighbor's bee hives had been destroyed by wasps; his precious bees beheaded, or driven away, by those vicious wasps.

So, with all the talk, in the news, about ways to save our planet, and you are not sure of your part in this, focus on pollinators. Find out what species are in the area; what their needs are, and how to attract them.  “Pollination is one of nature's most important functions; it is the way many plants reproduce. Pollinators assist plants with reproduction; they take pollen from one plant to another. If plants aren’t properly pollinated, they can't bear fruit or produce seeds to grow new plants.” (The Importance of Pollinators by Joe Lamp’l -

To watch a video, of the honey bees at a watering station, go to:

Mary Cokenour

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