Swimming pools and bees
Because honey bees are are a social insect -- living in colonies of up to 60,000 individuals -- they need lots of food and water to keep the nest alive. The queen lays all the eggs in the colony and the worker bees do all the work. Worker bees normally forage on flowers for nectar and pollen. Nectar is the sweet flower sap that bees make into honey by evaporating off the excess water. Pollen is the protein resource bees feed their young larvae.
Bees store their food and raise their young in the honeycomb nest. Honeycomb is made from beeswax, which is secreted by young worker bees, and fashioned into the familiar honeycomb hexagonal shape. Because bees live in these wax combs, though, they have to keep the nest at a constant temperature, not only to keep the colony from overheating, but also to prevent the wax from melting.
In hot weather, bees cool the colony much like a swamp or evaporative cooler does -- by evaporating off drops of water. Bees collect water and spread it throughout the colony in droplets. Then they fan the air to creat an air stream over the water drops, causing the water to evaporate and thus lowering the nest temperatures.
When bees forage for water, they are not too fussy about where they collect it.
It could be from a small, muddy puddle, a stream, or your swimming pool, irrigation system, swamp cooler or birdbath. It is when bees come in contact with people, especially at swimming pools, that people notice them. Then they are considered not only a nuisance, but also a hazard.
Here are some tips on how to keep bees away from your pools.
- When you first notice bees around your pool, mix a 1/4 cup of dish soap to a quart of water, and fill an empty sprayer bottle with it. Using the soapy mixture, spray any bees that are at your pool.
- This soapy mixture will kill the bees quickly and without harmful pesticide residues.
- Do this every time you see bees at a water source you want to keep bee-free.
- This will kill those foragers who are telling others in the colony where your swimming pool is located. Eventually, all those foragers who are not returning to the colony, will have died. Other foragers will find a different source of water, so do not worry that you are harming the colony. Your are only eliminating a few individuals.
In addition, you should monitor other water sources and discourage bees from frequent visits. Here are some tips.
- Evaporative coolers: add a few ounces of pine-scented cleaner to the water.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water to birdbaths or pet waterers.
- Cover or drain pools or tubs when not in use.
- Repair leaky faucets and faulty irrigation systems.
If you notice bees nosing around your shed, house or other small hole in your wall or foundation, these are probably scout bees looking for a new home site for a swarm. Make sure all holes larger than 1/4-inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil), is caulked up.
The bees information above was edited by Chris Whitten based on material from the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center.