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Interesting discussion on the salt needs of bees...

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Posting some snippets from convo on facebook:

I have an idea. I am no biologist just an old guy that works two jobs. One job is farming. I see beekeepers posting lots of anti roundup stuff cause there is roundup in their honey. I suspect if roundup is in your honey it is because you are not giving your bees salt. Roundup is a salt. Buy a 50 lb block of white salt for $5 or so from local feed store and put it where the dew will fall on it near your bee yard. A 50lb block turned on its side in bee yard will probably last a couple of years if you lay it on a cement block or brick. Lets don't try to get rid of a very needed product because we are not willing to do our part.


I use regular mineral livestock salt around my hives, even sprinkling some on the hive supports and the bees collect it all the time. It also keeps the grass and weeds down.


I wanted to give my bees some salt, so I put in a swimming pool! smile emoticon not really, I already had pool....but they come to it all day. It's salt water, and there is a creek 25' from the hives. They know what they need better than us I believe.
 
chad Christopher
Posts: 290
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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Eh, bees need salt and minerals just like everyone else, in very very low amounts. I guess it couldn't hurt to have a salt source around, but I would find it otherwise unnecessary. Bees have Malpighain tubules that function to control water and salt balance. They are analogous to the glomerulus, mammalian kidney. So yes, they need salt to live, there is no debate about that. Bees that don't have access to a natural salt source can suffer, but rarely. Bees can taste the differences between fructose, glucose, sucrose, and many others, in addition to salts and equivalents to our perceptions of bitter and sour. What their threshold for perception of taste of salt is? It doesn't seem all to high, according to studies, not me. So to say bees have a "taste" for salt, may be a stretch. Maybe keeping a small amount near their water may help. But I personally wouldn't take the chance of poisoning them.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I our neighbourhood you would have to go a very very long way to find a natural salt source. I'm seriously thinking about putting some chunks of rock salt out in a corner of my apiary, just so they have the option.
 
chad Christopher
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Location: Pittsburgh PA
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All water, even rain water, contains dissolved "salts." But not all water tastes salty. Water is fresh or salty according to ones threshold of taste of salt. It is one's taste buds that accept one water and reject another. A bee's need for salt will be obtained nearly anywhere in the world, it just won't taste salty to us, humans, nor fill our needs.

Also, if there is no salt, it's highly likely NOTHING will be living in that area.

So...bees need salt, not particularly "our" salt. Round up is not a salt, it is an acid, salt is used to make handling easier. If round up is in honey, it is because they touched round up. They have no particular reason to seek a salt, which they have no particular "taste buds" for.

The herbivores that love salt will come and get it, I would rather them stay away from my vegetables.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I don't particularly buy the monsanto/roundup-as-salt aspects of the convo... but it is at least interesting that some people are seeing their bees preferentially seek out salty water in their environment.
 
Roger Taylor
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Location: New Zealand
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Michael Cox wrote:I don't particularly buy the monsanto/roundup-as-salt aspects of the convo... but it is at least interesting that some people are seeing their bees preferentially seek out salty water in their environment.

This isn't something new, now that I'm reminded of it. The FoxFire books give it as old Appalachian pass-me-down lore, for finding a wild hive. The advice was something along the lines of "put a bowl of salt water out and follow the bees that drink it back to their hive [then maybe it says something about] they'll fly in a straight line".
 
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