One of the four main components necessary in order to have a backyard wildlife habitat is a source of water. I always assumed it was for the birds and that a birdbath would suffice. It wasn't until I put in a pond a few years ago that I realized that the water sustains more than just the birds and that a birdbath doesn't really cut it particularly for important insects, like honeybees, that often drown in it while trying to get water.
I designed my pond based on the guidelines I found at the National Wildlife Federation's website on backyard wildlife habitats (it is also where I eventually applied for and received my official certification from the NWF).
NWF's guidelines suggested that somewhere in the pond needed to be protruding rocks for smaller creatures to be able to get to the water or out of the water if they fell in accidentally.
NWF's guidelines also suggested possibly a "beach" area that sloped into the water so the transition was gradual. Again, it was for smaller creatures to be able to access the water without falling in and drowning.
I did both in my pond just for safe measure. I put in an "island" with rocks of all sizes on it, and I also made a flowing water current over river rock that was set on a beach-like area. The water current starts from a waterfall over flat rocks and then passes on both sides of that "island" in a Y to the main deeper section of the pond where the pump is located that sends the water back up to the bio-filter and then out over the flat rocks and back down the river rock again. It's kind of a closed system beach, creek bed and pond all in one.
This evening as I was out feeding the fish before sunset (they're favorite feeding time), I noticed once again why my design and the NWF guidelines are so critical to my habitat. The honeybees were coming down to the water's edge on the big round river rocks at the tip of the Y and getting sips of water as it gurgled by. The bees like to get down in the crevices between the rocks on the island in little groups. It's quite enchanting to watch them. I can get within inches of them, and they've never stung me. They are too busy getting the precious water to be concerned with me.
As I watched them, I knew that they had just finished a busy day of humming from one bee-friendly flower in my garden to the next. They probably lighted on the newly bloomed sunflowers in the front garden at some point today (bees love sunflowers). They also probably sampled the canna lilies too just as the hummingbirds do. And then I'm sure they did the job that I need them to do of pollinating all the blossoms in my fruit and vegetable garden in raised boxes throughout the flower gardens (done to encourage balance in good insect population so I don't have to use pesticides on my produce--this is the year 6 that I haven't had to use ANY).
I had my camera with me this evening, and I photographed the bees as they got their drinks before going back the hive for the night, wherever it may be. And I found myself being thankful that I had made my gardens a wildlife habitat. I found myself grateful that the honeybees have not disappeared from my little part of the world.