Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Bees in the Blue

One of the many basic rules of country life is that humans have to share place with other, non human forms of life. So, for example, I share my house with various insects, spiders,a variety of flies, the odd millipede,or hornets with a poor sense of direction.   In the house it is a constant battle to keep an acceptable balance, that is a balance acceptable to me. Outside the house humans have much less power.   .

BUT I draw the line at sharing my swimming pool with wild bees.  For the last month, ever since the weather has got reliably warm, ever greater numbers of bees have been congregating at the deep, top left hand corner of the pool. As so often with human versus other life form reactions, my hostility is based on fear.  I react severely to wasp and hornet stings, and the reaction has got worse with the years.  Yes, I know that - in theory - bees only sting in desperation. But a drowning bee is probably pretty desperate.
bees lining up on pool cover

When the pool cover is on, the bees line up in orderly fashion along its edge.  As the cover is rolled up, a little cloud of buzzing bees forms at the end furthest from the winding wheel - fortunately.   Then, as the rolled cover drips, part of the cloud settles on the paving, more enterprising bees head into the roll of damp plastic. Leaving the pool cover rolled means less bees in the pool, but still an unsettling number hovering around. And still some desperately paddling, drowning bees in the pool.
Bees, bees everywhere

I tried luring them away from the pool by providing another source of water, a neat aluminium barquette, weighted down by a stone, filled with pool water.  I assumed the saltiness was probably necessary to them.  This was useless.  The pool and its cover were still preferred though there were a couple of drowned bees floating near the stone.

Then I wondered if the very blueness of the pool water was the attraction. So I purloined a plastic baby lunch plate, put in some chunks of white coral to imitate the rough paving, added pool water, went away, waited.  Yes, that was acceptable - but there were more bees, enough for the new,small pool, the paving stones and the rolled up pool cover.  Sigh.

new bee pool

Apparently bees not only drink water, the worker bees also carry water to the hive in order to build winter quarters.  So, if the bee-keeper has not provided sufficient water near the hives - or if the bees are 'wild' - they will fly as far as necessary to get water.  There are many suggestions wandering round the internet as to how to determine the source of the bees, each more time consuming, slightly more absurd than the precedent. 

Since these bees do not appear to be 'swarming' there is no point in finding the nearest bee-keeper to come and fetch them home.  One has been recommended to sit and watch which way the bees fly when they leave the water and head for home.   It is said that bees fly above tree level when homing....given that our pool is surrounded by trees which are 40 plus metres high, and the bees fly individually, this is going to be difficult.

SO, until the bees have decided that their task is finished, or we stumble upon the location of the hive by accident and call in a bee-keeper, people will have to share the pool with bees.   The rule is: left hand side as you head for the deep end will be reserved for bees, right hand side for humans.  Now I just need someone who speaks bee to inform the bees....

Oddly, there are no bees anywhere near the beautifully situated, sun-kissed pool that is reserved for the holiday makers. And, apparently, in 'Bee-Keeping 101', students are recommended to supply plenty of water near the hives ...even if only to keep them out of the neighbour's pool....

Bee free pool - holiday makers only!

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