Providing for your thirsty bees
During their foraging season, bees collect more than just nectar and pollen. They gather a whole lot of water. They use it to dilute honey that's too thick, and to cool the hive during hot weather. Field bees bring water back to the hive and deposit it in cells, while other bees fan their wings furiously to evaporate the water and regulate the temperature of the hive.
If your hive is at the edge of a stream or pond, that's perfect. But if it isn't, you should provide a nearby water source for the bees. Keep in mind that they'll seek out the nearest water source. You certainly don't want that to be your neighbor's kiddy pool. You can improvise all kinds of watering devices. Figure 2 shows an attractive and natural-looking watering device situated on top of a boulder that sits in one beeyard. All it took was a little cement, a dozen rocks and a few minutes of amateur masonry skills.
Figure 2: A shallow bee watering pool constructed on a boulder near the hives.
Consider these other watering options: a pie pan filled with gravel and topped off with water, a chicken-watering device (available at farm supply stores; see Figure 3), or simply an outdoor faucet that is encouraged to develop a slow drip.
Understanding the correlation between geographical area and honey flavors
The type of honey you eat usually is classified by the primary floral sources from which the bees gathered the nectar. A colony hived in the midst of a huge orange grove collects nectar from the orange blossoms — thus the bees make orange-blossom honey. Bees in a field of clover make clover honey, and so on. As many different kinds of honey can exist as there are flowers that bloom. The list gets long.
For most hobbyists, the flavor of honey they harvest depends upon the dominant floral sources in their areas. During the course of a season, your bees visit many different floral sources. They bring in many different kinds of nectar. The resulting honey, therefore, can properly be classified as wildflower honey, a natural blend of various floral sources.
The beekeeper who is determined to harvest a particular kind of honey (clover, blueberry, apple blossom, sage, tupelo, buckwheat, and so on) needs to locate his or her colony in the midst of acres of this preferred source and must harvest the honey as soon as that desired bloom is over. But, doing so is not very practical for the backyard beekeeper. That's what the commercial beekeepers do.
Updated January 13, 2016
© 2010-2016 Albert W. Needham