Bees and Ash?
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Thread: Bees and Ash?

  1. #1
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    Outside my brothers woodshop, there is a burning barrel which we burn our scrap wood in. It is getting full of ash. We have been getting alot of rain, and is saturating the ash in the barrel. Everyday, for the last two weeks, and only the last two weeks, there has been about 30-50 bees gathering the moisture off the wood ash. I have never seen them do this before. What would they be getting from the ash, and why then only in the last two weeks?

    Any thoughts,.?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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  3. #2
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    Bees love dirty water. The more disgusting it is to us the more they like it. Just accept that. We don't need to understand it to use it in our work.

    Hawk
    KC0YXI

  4. #3
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    Ash water is lye. I use it for dehairing hides and my Grandmother used it to make soap. Maybe the bees need it for something.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Old thread-

    I observed this in my fire pit yesterday...

    20200208_115011.jpg
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    There is a thread here somewhere about bees preferring a water source with 3 % or so mineral content compared to clear water. That is the reason you see them in the barnyard etc. Road salt runoff is one spot in my yard they visit besides the barnyard.
    Frank

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    There is a thread here somewhere about bees preferring a water source with 3 % or so mineral content compared to clear water. That is the reason you see them in the barnyard etc. Road salt runoff is one spot in my yard they visit besides the barnyard.
    Frank:

    Thank you for your feedback. I sincerely appreciate it!

    Have a great week.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Ash water is lye. I use it for dehairing hides and my Grandmother used it to make soap. Maybe the bees need it for something.
    Hive cleaning?
    Proverbs 16:24

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    I have seen my bees collecting water from a bag of potting (I think, might have been top) soil after it got wet in the rain. I think they chose it because of the extra minerals.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cloverdale View Post
    Hive cleaning?
    Certainly could be. Maybe they are washing their woolen undergarments in preparation for storing them away for next winter .
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by elmer_fud View Post
    I think they chose it because of the extra minerals.
    Makes sense to me- I appreciate your feedback!

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    I vote "minerals".. The fires in the prairies recycled the minerals faster than in the woodlands. The minerals are all tied up in the wood until it slowly rots. The prairie gets to turn it into more plants right away.

    Take some ash and scatter it on the lawn and see how green it gets.

    Crazy Roland

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    Take some ash and scatter it on the lawn and see how green it gets.
    Thank you, Roland. Good feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.

    I do retain the ash from my wood burner and put it in the orchard. Makes sense that the bees like access to the trace minerals as much as plants/trees do.

    Thanks again for the input. Have a great weekend.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  14. #13
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    This is pretty neat. We heat our home with wood and the piggers love the charcoal that is left over. I'll have to save some for the warm weather and see if the bees will work it.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    A few guesses: 1) the ash may be warmer, heat from the bottom where the lye or potassium hydroxide (KOH or caustic) leaches out and reacts - is your barrel warmer? 2) top ash surface may have clean water, carbon filtering, on top, 3) the need potassium for some reason. I have bees flying to a specific spot where water is leaching out of a stone wall and junk pile against it. THe bees go there because it is warmer versus my vernal pool which has ice on it.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Outside my brothers woodshop, there is a burning barrel which we burn our scrap wood in. It is getting full of ash. We have been getting alot of rain, and is saturating the ash in the barrel. Everyday, for the last two weeks, and only the last two weeks, there has been about 30-50 bees gathering the moisture off the wood ash. I have never seen them do this before. What would they be getting from the ash, and why then only in the last two weeks?

    Any thoughts,.?
    I have noticed similar behavior with my bees. We have a propane tank from which we made a smoker. When it rains, it leaks into the main body of the smoker where the fat collects. When this, in turn, leaks into the fire box wetting the ash, the bees work it heavily.
    I don't know if it is because of the dampness alone or if the fat somehow enhances it's desirability. I never see them working it when it is dry.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by crab414 View Post
    This is pretty neat. We heat our home with wood and the piggers love the charcoal that is left over. I'll have to save some for the warm weather and see if the bees will work it.
    crab414:

    I was intrigued about you mentioning that your swine like to eat wood ash, so I looked it up and it appears there has been at least one academic study on the subject!

    https://academic.oup.com/jas/article...dFrom=fulltext
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  18. #17
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    Nothing goes to waste. I sift the ash through a .25" screen box and save the charcoal for the pigs. The ash I use to dust the garbage cans in the summer. No maggots, no flys. Sometimes the pigs eat something out on pasture and the get diarrhea. The charcoal settles their tummies and gets them regular. Not to mention, there's got to be all kinds of minerals in it.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by crab414 View Post
    Nothing goes to waste.
    I think this is a good philosophy, and thank you for cluing me in on how you feed it to your swine. I'll definitely keep this in mind should I ever get back in the hog business.
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    A few guesses: 1) the ash may be warmer, heat from the bottom where the lye or potassium hydroxide (KOH or caustic) leaches out and reacts - is your barrel warmer? 2) top ash surface may have clean water, carbon filtering, on top, 3) the need potassium for some reason. I have bees flying to a specific spot where water is leaching out of a stone wall and junk pile against it. THe bees go there because it is warmer versus my vernal pool which has ice on it.
    Robert:

    Thank you for your feedback. You bring up several good possibilities. In my specific case, the fire pit is a masonry surround so it could certainly be expected to be a bit warmer inside the ring than outside.

    While I haven't been paying close attention to this until recently, it seems (now that I am making a point to look) that the fire pit gets more action during marginal flying weather- they were there again today when it was about 45 degrees F and windy.
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Bees and Ash?

    Quote Originally Posted by AHudd View Post
    I don't know if it is because of the dampness alone or if the fat somehow enhances it's desirability. I never see them working it when it is dry.
    Thank you for your feedback, Alex. Glad to know I am not the only one observing this behavior. While I can't presume to speak for the bees, I know the fat in my food enhances it's desirability to me...

    Thanks again for your reply.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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