Water for Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
Basically all living things need water. A good source of water for honey bees can be of great benefit. What are some creative ways to provide water for bees in your area? Let’s check them out!
If you are a beekeeper, you understand the importance of clean water for your bees. And yes, I know that my bees sometimes avoid my water source and drink from a mud puddle.. LOL But they don’t have to – they have a choice.
You don’t have to be a beekeeper to help bees and other insects. Providing a clean source of water for honey bees, butterflies and other bees is easy to do.
You will be helping not only bees but all pollinators. Hopefully, the bees will choose your water source instead of others that may be polluted with chemicals.
Why Honey Bees Need Water
Honey bees are known for collecting plant nectar and making honey. But nectar is not the only liquid they collect. Like all living creatures, bees need water.
Water is used by honey bees to mix food for baby bees. And water is used to dilute honey (which is very thick) for eating.
Bees Use Water for Air Conditioning
The honey bees also uses water for air conditioning purposes. Controlling internal hive temperature is vital for brood development. Overheating can cause the death of baby bees.
Numerous droplets of water are placed on the surface of the honey comb. Then, worker bees fan their wings to circulate air through the colony. Air passing over the water droplets has a cooling effect.
This “social ventilation” with the use of water enables honey bees to keep the temperatures of the colony in check. Not too hot, just the right temperature for developing baby bees.
Bees Collect Water Constantly
On any given day, a percentage of the worker bees in a colony will be in charge of collecting water. The worker bees fly to visit the water source. With the same pumping action used to harvest nectar, the bee sucks up water.
Stored in the honey stomach, water is carried back to the hive. Once inside the hive, these water-filled worker bees travel around the hive giving water where it is needed.
Because honey bees do not store water in the hive, water collection is a constant task.
Creating Water Sources For Bees
There are several reasons that a beekeeper may desire to provide a bee waterer. It is not always necessary, bees are pretty good at finding a drink. But construction of some type of bee waterer may be something you want to try.
There might not be plentiful natural water sources nearby. But, we do not want the bees to expend tremendous amounts of energy to collect water from far away.
Local water sources may be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides or other substances that are bad for bee health. In this case, a water source closer to the hive may encourage bees to avoid drinking bad water.
And one of the best reasons to provide water for honey bees, your neighbor has a swimming pool ! (Be a good neighbor, citizen and beekeeper and try to keep your bees out of their pool.)
The bees will go to a nearby swimming pool. And, if your neighbors have a salt water pool – the bees seem to like it even better ! Does this mean you can not have beehives and swimming pools?
Not at all, but some pre-planning on the part of the beekeeper and understanding on the part of the pool owner can be a great asset. Have a water source in place before they find the pool.
If the pool in question belongs to you, and the bees seem determined to go there. You might try to limit them to one edge of the pool. Honey bees are not defensive when away from the hive. If they drink there – you can enjoy the rest of the pool.
Honey bees will gather water from a dependable source that is closest to the hive. Failure to have a good source of water in place, before bees arrive can have bad consequences.
Water Sources for Bees Must be Dependable
If you are providing a cute water source for area bees and butterflies, that’s an easy project. It is probably not the only source of water they are using. You are providing a nice cool “oasis” for them to enjoy while foraging.
However, if you are a beekeeper with a hive of 40,000 bees – and probably more than 1 hive? Well, you have some important planning to do. Having a small dish of water outside is not enough.
Beekeepers have developed several ingenious ways to provide a honey bee water source. Some beekeepers use the common quart jar feeder that is placed on the front of the hive.
This is inexpensive and easy. However, you must never let them run out. Also, bee water sources do not have to be directly next to the hive. Let’s remember that bees can fly.
Small water sources are easy to create but they require more maintenance. It takes some discipline to remember to check any small water source – every day or twice a day.
The same problems applies to small fountains, buckets, etc. When hot weather arrives and your honey beehives really need more water, will you be able to remember to refill?
Water Gardens A Valuable Resource
You may decide to add a water garden to your backyard. I love water gardens and have had them for many years – even before I had honey bees. This is something almost any homeowner or homesteader can do.
This type of water source helps honey bees and all bees. And, a water garden does not have to be a half acre pond. A small water garden of 100-200 gallons in size holds a lot of water.
Yes you still have to manage the water level but it is a weekly chore rather than daily. This mean less monitoring and maintenance for the homeowner or beekeeper.
A small pool with some plants and a few goldfish can be an educational and entertaining addition to any backyard. You could even jump in if you don’t mind swimming with the frogs and fishes.
Water Garden Plants Will Also Provide Food For Bees
Being a lover of all plants (except maybe Kudzu), I have several water lilies in my gardens. Each bloom is so beautiful and the honey bees do visit the blossoms !
Water gardens provide beauty in your landscape and allow your family to reconnect with nature. Each month there is something new happening out there.
Toads singing and calling mates in February. Plants starting to emerge in March. The fish become more active as the water warms in April . By May and June the water temps have risen and we see lily pads on the surface of the water and blooms beginning.
Honey bees are seen gathering water all year long on warm days. You can plant flowers that bees like around the pond area. Be sure to include a shallow place for the bees to drink without fear of drowning.
Some of my water garden marginal plants provide pollen and nectar for my honey bees. Providing a good clean source of water can be fun and beautiful.