Bee Watering Station

How To Make A Bee Watering Station

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Like all living creatures, bees need water to survive. It’s a common misconception that these buzzing beauties get all the hydration they need from nectar. Sure, nectar plays a part, but bees are often seeking out other water sources to quench their thirst.

What’s even more fascinating is how honey bees use water not just for drinking but to cool their hives during the warm months.

Why is it important to provide a water source for bees?

Bees, much like us, have a vital need for water. Water plays a multifaceted role in a bee’s life. Bees collect water not just to quench their thirst but also to regulate the temperature of their hive. They achieve this through a process known as evaporative cooling. Worker bees fan their wings vigorously, spreading water throughout the hive which evaporates and cools down their home, ensuring the survival of the colony.

Water is instrumental in diluting stored honey that has crystallized or become too viscous. This is especially critical when they need to feed their larva and the queen, as the right consistency of honey is necessary for their diet. This intricate balance of hydration is essential for their nourishment and the overall health of the hive.

However, providing water does more than just meet their physiological needs. It also minimizes the bees’ need to venture far and wide in search of hydration. This is crucial during dry spells when natural water sources can be scarce.

Making a DIY Hydration Station

Making a bee watering station is very simple; all you need is a jar, saucer and some form of rocky medium for the water to sit in. Heres how I made a very quick and simple water station.

To start with, you need an old jar and a drill. We want to drill a series of holes into the lid of the jar, this is where our water will come out.

Drill & Jar
Drill & Jar
Drill holes in the top
Drill holes in the top
Make it so it looks like a salt shaker
Make it so it looks like a salt shaker

Go nice and slow here and don’t put too much pressure on the drill. Use a metal drill bit if you have one and not one intended for drilling wood. A wood bit will often have a very sharp brad point on the end, whereas a metal or multi-material bit will not.

If you find your bit slips around on the lid a lot then add some masking tape to help keep your bit in the same position.

You need some sort of pad
You need some sort of pad

Once you have drilled the holes, you need some sort of pad on the top of your lid. This just keeps it slightly off the ground when turned upside down. This is what will allow the water to seep out of the jar slowly.

Some small foam pads would be perfect, but I didn’t have anything like that. What I did was roll some electrical tape up and stick it on!

A Saucer
A Saucer
Im using clay leca balls
I’m using clay leca balls

Now, we need a saucer and some form of medium for the water to sit in. I used leca clay balls, but pebbles or marbles work well, too. We want something for the water to be in that provides easy access for the bees without the risk of drawing. The leca clay balls work perfectly.

then flip the jar upside down and put it in the middle of your saucer.

Flip the jar upside down
Flip the jar upside down
This is where the bees will drink from
This is where the bees will drink from

You can see the clay balls give the bees plenty of places to land while they drink the water.

If you can, then it is best to place your watering station up off the ground somewhere!

How do I attract bees to my water source?

Firstly, bees are not drawn to water purely by sight. Rather, it’s the scent that guides them. Water that smells of wet earth, moss, aquatic plants, or even a hint of chlorine can be far more appealing to our buzzing friends than the crystal-clear water we humans might prefer.

To mimic these natural scents, you could add a little moss or even mud to your saucer. This doesn’t need to be a constant practice, once bees locate this water source, they’re likely to return.

Should I add sugar or honey?

Many people think adding a little sugar to the water might be a good idea that will provide the bees with some food. While this is true, it can also cause issues when done in the long term.

The thing is, bees love a shortcut. As soon as they find your nice and easy food source, they will give up looking for plant nectar and return to your feeder. They will also tell their buddies, who will soon arrive too.

This obviously isn’t good for your plants, but it also isn’t good for the bees. This sugar water is nowhere near as good for the hive as nectar; the bees will make a weak, watery honey that then won’t provide enough energy to sustain the hive through winter. So your little helping hand could actually end up killing a hive.

Is dirty water dangerous for bees?

The risks associated with dirty water are multifaceted. One primary danger is the presence of chemical pollutants such as pesticides or fertilisers in water collected from agricultural runoffs. Another concern is pathogens. Just as honey can carry harmful pathogens, the same can be said for water. Pathogens in dirty water can spread diseases within the hive, affecting the health of the entire colony.

Observations have shown that bees, much like us, need clean water to remain healthy. Contaminated water sources can disrupt their delicate ecosystem within the hive, leading to diseases or even colony collapse. The act of fanning their wings to evaporate water, crucial for cooling the hive, could spread contaminants throughout their living space if the water is not pure.

Can bees drown in water?

Bee’s interaction with water is quite unique. Unlike birds or mammals that can wade or swim to quench their thirst, bees are not equipped to handle large bodies of water. Their small size and the surface tension of water present a significant risk.

The issue of drowning comes into play when bees attempt to rescue their fellow hive members. Should a bee start to drown, its instinctual social response kicks in, and other bees may rush to help, inadvertently leading to a catastrophic chain reaction.

That is why we use the leca balls of small pebbles. these give the bees plenty of space spaces to land while the small pockets of water mean they can drink without drowing.

How much water do bees drink?

Bees, like any other living creature, need water to survive. However, the amount they drink can vary widely depending on a range of factors such as the temperature, their activity levels, and the requirements of their hive.

On hot summer days, when the hive needs to be cooled, bees might consume more water than on cooler days. Additionally, the stage of development within the hive plays a significant role. Brood-rearing seasons demand more water due to its use in diluting honey to feed the larvae.

To offer a bit of perspective, let’s crunch some numbers. A single bee might not seem to drink a lot. However, considering a hive can house upwards of 60,000 bees in the peak season, the collective need for water becomes quite substantial.

These numbers are merely approximations and can vary based on hive health, exterior conditions, and the availability of water sources. What’s crucial is understanding that water is as vital to bees as it is to flora and fauna. It’s not just about hydration but also about maintaining an optimal temperature within the hive and preparing food for the developing brood.

In my own garden, I’ve seen bees visiting my water features more frequently during the warm months. This observation aligns with their need to collect water not just for personal consumption but also for the wellbeing of their hive.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Daniel,I know this has nothing to do with Bees but could you tell me when is the best time for moving a Hypericum bush please?

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