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Column: Give bees a hand with this simple device
Rudi Kiefer

Having a pool is wonderful during this hottest time of the year. Whether it’s just an inflatable splashing pool or a serious swimming venue, one always finds some honeybees that fell into it and can’t get out, in spite of their struggles.

Honeybees deserve a lot of respect because they help grow our food. Broccoli for example, so often praised for its health benefits, must be pollinated by bees in order to grow. The same is true for 90 other U.S. food crops. In addition, honeybees produce more than $300 million worth of honey annually, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. So it’s a kind deed to help keep bees from falling into the pool.

They go there because they need to drink water, especially in hot weather. Their local beekeeper probably makes water available at the hive, but they venture up to 2 miles away from there in their daily work. In order to drink, they need to sit on some surface close to the water. If you already have a birdbath, they will appreciate a perch made from stones. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so it’s better to have a moving water source. Solar fountains are attractive and don’t add to the electric bill. With a few rocks added, a solar fountain helps the bees stay hydrated  and they won’t need to head for the swimming pool to find water.

There used to be decorative items called “bee preservation floats” available to place in pools, but they seem to have disappeared from the market. One company in particular made blown-glass spheres with ribbed surfaces. Both the bees and humans found them attractive but there’s no more mention of them on the glass company’s website. One can only speculate that breakage caused glass shard hazards. However, “pool noodles” are hazard-free, available at the dollar store, and suitable as bee floats. Honeybees aren’t interested in stinging people in the pool because it isn’t their hive territory. If they get too comfortable and dozens of winged tourists start lounging there, one can always remove the noodles before going swimming.

The best strategy for keeping bees out of the pool and supporting them at the same time is to provide multiple alternative water sources. Even a trickle from the garden hose is appreciated by the little food producers.

 

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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