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How to Keep Bees Away from a Swimming Pool

Even the most ardent bee lover has a limit to their desire to get up close and personal with a bee.  One such situation is when you are in your swim suit in the water.  Keeping bees away from a swimming pool becomes a major struggle for many homeowners each season. While we can not control every single bee, there are things you can try to make your swimming pool less attractive to the local honey bee population.

Honey bees drowning in swimming pool image.

Getting Rid of Bees at the Pool

Insects regularly collect water throughout the year.  Their water demands are greater during the hot Summer – the exact time of year that humans seek the cool comfort of a pool.

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Water is used to regulate internal colony temperatures and to produce larval food.  In addition, water also contains minerals needed by the colony.

Bees Love Smelly Water

Though I strive to provide clean water sources for my hives, it is not uncommon to see them drinking from a muddy hoof print in the barnyard.  Why would they prefer this dirty water? 

Honey bees collecting mineral rich water from mud image.

Bees are attracted to the minerals in brackish water.  Nectar and pollen collected from plants contains only low amounts of some minerals needed by the colonies.

Smelly water (at least smelly to our nose) tells the bee that this water source contains some things they need.  The same can be said of sweet-smelling chlorine.  The odor sensitive honey bee is naturally attracted to these types of water sources.

Honey bees need the sodium magnesium and potassium found in salt water – and mud holes.  It is used in their own metabolic processes and to feed their developing young.  While high concentrations of salt can be repelling, bees are attracted to salt water.

Honey bee drinking water keeping bees out of the pool tips and tricks image.

Bees and Saltwater Pools

Bees seem to love the scent of chlorinated water.  And, those who have a salt water pool are often surprised to find more not fewer bee visitors.  While salt water pools contain no chlorine, the salty water is very enticing to insects.

A honey bees has taste receptors in her front feet and can recognize salt rich water sources. How can you enjoy a swim without providing a veritable mineral lick to every bee in the neighborhood?

Of course if we are talking about a spa or hot tub, it is a good idea to keep the salt water covered when not in use. For salt water swimming pools, we have to get a bit more creative.

Beekeepers Provide a Better Water Source

If you are a beekeeper, you have a responsibility to limit any negative effects that your backyard hives have on your neighbors.  While it is aggravating to have stinging insects drinking from your own pool, it is even worse to have them inundating your neighbors swimming pool.

When choosing where to put your beehives, be a considerate neighbor.  Don’t set colonies too near the property line or where their flight path will endanger others. 

Also, set up a water source for your hives well before they arrive.  It should be closer to the hives that any swimming pool or hot tub.  Make it attractive and safe to drink from by having shallow areas for drinking and never let it go dry.

In some cases, this type of prevention is all that is needed to keep bees away from a swimming pool.  Simply provide them with a better more convenient water source.  Homeowners can do the same thing.

Tips to Discourage Bees from Visiting Your Swimming Pool

It may be impossible to stop every bee from coming to your pool.  However, there are some things you can do to reduce the number of winged visitors. 

  • avoid floral scents in sunscreens etc
  • don’t plant blooming plants near the swim area
  • provide an alternate water source for thirsty insects
  • share one area of the pool

Use Unscented Sunscreen

Choose sunscreen products that are unscented or at least do not smell floral.  Insects have an acute sense of smell – don’t smell like a flower.

When possible use scents that a bee doesn’t like.  Peppermint, Spearmint or Eucalyptus essential oils can be mixed with a little witch hazel and water and lightly sprayed on surfaces outside the pool area.

Honey bees drinking water from a temporary water station image.

Use Bee Friendly Plants Farther Away from Your Swimming Area

As a big proponent of bee friendly gardening, I hate to tell you to avoid planting flowers for bees. However, having attractive blooming plants right near the pool may not be the best idea.

There are some types of plants that seem to repel bees and other insects – or at least not attract them. Perhaps they are a better choice to use as a border.

Lure Bees Away from the Pool to Alternate Water Source

It can be rather difficult to get the bees to leave a known water source.  One method is to lure them away over a space of days.

Fill shallow tin pans with sand and fill up with pool water just to the surface of the sand.  This gives them a way to drink safely – and not swimming with you.   You can also use other containers with wood floats.

Move the pie pans just a couple of feet farther away from the pool every day until you reach the alternative water source. If it is possible to keep the pool covered some during the process, you may have better results.

Set up a Bee Water Station Near the Pool

If you don’t mind sharing the backyard with thirsty insects, perhaps you can create a small water source just for them.  Here are the instructions for making a bee water station.  When using a small container, it will need to be filled every day.

For a larger source that requires less maintenance, a large bird bath filled with stones is a good option.  Bees seems to prefer water with a bit of salt – add  1 tsp of table salt per gallon of water.

Some ardent bee lovers set up a safe place for them to drink near one section of the pool – this option is not for everyone of course. However, it is a good idea to make your pool safer for wildlife. These animal saving escapes work well as a drinking station when the pool is not occupied.

Final Thoughts on Getting Rid of Bees at the Pool

As you plan your Summer enjoyment give a thought for the important insects in your region.  I don’t blame you for not wanted to share the swimming pool with them.  However, by providing a better water source closer to the hive perhaps you can avoid drowning bees in your pool or hot tub.

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