Bees in the Pool

This year we added honey bees to our yard. They promptly took over one of our bird baths- spiraling down for a drink and a waggling conversation with the bee next to them.

Apis mellifera

Since it was difficult to have a proper bee conversation on a narrow rim of slippery glass, they left the glass bird bath for the birds. They showed little interest in our small container pond. All the yard inhabitants were happy. The bees had their concrete “bee bath” , the birds had their glass bird bath, and the green frog remained king of his small pond.

Lithobates clamitans or Rana clamitans

The trouble started when a pipe burst under our house. As we pulled assorted items out of our crawl space, my husband pointed to an old “Easy Set” pool and suggested we either set it up or get rid of it. Anyone who’s had one of these knows there is nothing easy about the set up, especially if your yard is sloped and rocky like ours- but we managed it.

No-one was happier than our son. Lots of bee-free swimming and splashing followed. Then for a few really muggy days, we didn’t swim. A boogie board and two orange pool noodles floated peacefully on the surface.

The bees were attracted to the suddenly human-free zone, frequently landing on the boogie board. I was worried about the chlorinated water and thought they liked the bright colors, so I flipped it over. This did not deter them at all and they continued to hang out, having long conversations of waggly dances punctuated frequently by bumping their rear ends up and down -in some secret bee form of communication.

Apis mellifera

We continued to wonder what they were doing. They were not drinking. I saw one enter the water, swim to a pool noodle and climb out. Others would fly over, skimming their feet through the water. Were they dipping their feet in and swimming for fun? Had we set up a bee resort?

Apis mellifera

Eventually, we returned to playing in the pool and were surprised that the bees didn’t just move on. They swooped around us. They buzzed loudly. We removed the boogie board and pool noodles, but they stayed. They weren’t bumping into us or stinging- still, we hopped out and googled what to do.

Someone claimed dryer sheets repelled them. We grabbed a few and draped them around the pool. The bees were not impressed by their “fresh linen scent.” They landed next to them and buzzed around them.

Apis mellifera

Over the next few days, we found that they do not like the filter. Swimming now requires some planning. We remove everything floating and turn on the filter two hours ahead. They are not happy about it, but most of them eventually leave. Then we hop in. Finally, we have the pool back!

Two bees still regularly check on us. They swoop in, examine my face, then my son’s, then spiral up over the house and back towards the hive. They check back repeatedly until we get out. We wonder what waggling story they are telling about us. My son has named them. “Here comes Beeatrice” he says, “and her friend Anthobee.” We discuss the fact that they are both girls but decide Anthobee doesn’t have to be a boy name.

We wonder about their behavior, so we do a little research. It turns out that they have specialized “taste” receptors on their feet. Maybe all that toe-dipping while they fly over checks out the water quality. Studies show that they can recognize human faces. Yikes! We will have to be more careful about splashing Beeatrice.

School started last week but we are not ready to let go of summer. It has been a good one. One filled with butterflies, frogs, and yes- even the bees.

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