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Bees and Nasty Filamentous Algae

June 28, 2012

First, the filamentous algae:

Filamentous algae is also known as “pond scum”, and right now I have quite a bit in the frog pond.

This isn’t all bad; the algae provides great cover for the tadpoles and likely is grazed upon by the same…. Additionally, this goo is useful as a water conserving garden mulch and adds decent nutrients as it decomposes into the soil.

I fertilized the pond early after it was filled in order to jump start the ecosystem/food chain. I knew I would have some algae and actually wanted a little; the algae will be less aggressive when the water is completely shaded by the water lettuce and hyacinth.

And the bees:

I have been encouraged to see that I have honey bees active in the garden again this year; the last two seasons were pretty much with out them. They have covered the catnip blooms for several weeks from dawn until dusk and recently I noticed that they had joined the various types of wasps visiting the pond.

The odd thing is the honey bees always land on the algae and at times each clump has 4 or 5 or more “grazing”, or so I thought.

Bees on algae (yes, I will rescue my water lily from this soon):

A closer shot:

So what is the deal?

After investigating a little on the all-knowing interweb, I have learned:

Bees need a lot water, especially when it is hot. Besides using it for their own hydration, workers constantly bring it back to the hive where the water and the air movement from hundreds of pairs of buzzing wings create a cooling evaporate effect.

They can’t just grab water anywhere; they need a reliable source of water with certain attributes. “Reliable” means it is in one place and remains available for the assembly line of water transport to be effective (the bee “bucket brigade”). It seems bees aren’t made for swimming (duh…) and a slip into any sort of water is pretty much the last dip a bee will ever take. They prefer water level perches, such as floating plants or in the case firm islands of filamentous algae aka pond scum. The algae floats but the surface is always wet and there are numerous low spots with tiny pools of water along its surface. Floating plants that remain steady aren’t really found in moving or circulating water, so the miles of river that weave through downtown here don’t form the ideal bee watering hole.

So now my little pond and its calm clean water and surface covered with natural landing pads has been discovered by a hive somewhere to the northwest of me (the only direction the water transporters fly towards when they leave the pond).

We are in yet another drought here. Temperatures have been in the mid 90s for a couple weeks and are forecast to press 100 over the next several days.

So I’ll leave the nasty algae (or most of it) right where it is for the bees (and tadpoles I can see scurrying about underneath).

Who knew?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2012 10:23 pm

    Did you notice better production on your plants with the bees hanging about? When I got my hives I noticed a big jump in flowers being converted to food (passion fruit and cucumbers were the most notable) – or maybe I just like to think that was the cause.

    • December 2, 2012 10:46 pm

      Maybe-hard to say really. Bumblebees have been doing the heavy lifting for a while and were there in droves this year too. No complaints though. Honey bees are welcome too. 😉

  2. Michael Hurst permalink
    June 10, 2017 7:26 pm

    I have the same thing in a pond I built from a hot tub. I keep most of the algae away from the lilly pads. but there is a little island that has attached itself to some papyrus, so I leave it, about a 2ft x 1ft island of pure joy. I have 30-40 bees on that island during the day, with constant comings and goings. So I suggest let a small part stay permanently, it all weaves together, and then you can keep the rest of the algae away from the pads.

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