Safely Watering Bees
Winter is settling into my garden and I am already missing green - anything green. The garden looks very brown as leaves cover most of the ground and I try to keep my bird baths full of water for my bees.
The National Weather Service today said we had the driest November on record this year, and December doesn't look very promising in terms of precipitation. One of things I tried earlier this year to keep my bees safely drinking from bird baths was adding water lettuce Pistia stratiotes.
These fast-growing, non-native Missouri plants are offered for sale in garden centers for contained ponds. I purchased only 3 to add to a small pond and within weeks the pond was almost covered so I moved some to bird baths. Within days bees were landing in the center of the water lettuce and safely taking drinks so I spread the plants to the rest of the bird baths.
As long as I kept the bird baths in water, the water lettuce nicely survived and provided a safe landing spot for bees.
Surprisingly, the greenery in the bird baths did not prevent birds from taking a drink or even bathing, they just moved in between the water lettuce plants.
To make sure the bird baths were safe, I also added a few pieces of gravel and small twigs to the bird baths to give anything small that fell in a safe place to climb back out.
The green of the water lettuce made a nice contrast to watch the bees up close.
A friend has taken a water lettuce start and is going to try to winter it over. If successful, I will get a start back next spring and then within a few weeks, the bird baths will once again have safe landing spots for bees to stop in and get a drink.