Beekeepers should provide for their bees’ needs to keep them happy and productive in the hive.
But one aspect many new beekeepers don’t consider is providing clean drinking water for the bees.
And above all, how to prevent them from drowning while they drink!
So what is the best way to provide water for your bees without the risk of them falling into the water and drowning?
How To Supply Water For Bees Without The Drowning Risk
Bees need a water source where they can land safely and collect water without the risk of falling in and drowning. The best method is by providing a shallow water source with a large landing surface or placing objects in the water, such as stones on which the bees can land.
Bees need a water supply for the proper functioning of the colony and to keep hydrated. Therefore, certain worker bees are tasked with tracking down water and bringing it to the hive.
The water is used for several functions and purposes within the hive, including feeding the brood and controlling the hive’s internal temperature. Also, larvae are fed water to keep them hydrated, particularly during the hot season.
The hive’s internal temperature must be maintained to keep the bees and brood healthy and provide the right environment for the honey to ripen. Bees bring water into the hive and fan their wings to evaporate the water and produce a cooling effect in the hive.
The hive’s water needs will vary from season to season and depend on the colony’s size. For example, winter will see the water requirement for the hive drop. Still, it will significantly increase in the hot summer season.
Wondering how much H2O your bees actually need? A colony of average size requires about 7 ounces or 200ml of water per day in the early springtime, but this consumption can go as high as 140 ounces or 4 liters of water per day at the height of summer.
Can A Bee Drown In Water?
Bees are not adept swimmers and do not support having water on their wings. They need to settle and drink or collect the water without getting soaked.
If a bee lands in the water, it quickly begins to flounder, its wings become waterlogged, and the bee will drown.
If the bee can swim to the water’s edge and walk out or climb out, it can dry itself, survive the ordeal, and fly away. However, if there is no way for the bee to exit the water, it will drown. This is why providing a safe water source close to the beehive is essential.
Tips To Prevent Bees From Drowning In Water
You can use several methods to prevent the bees from drowning and thereby keep your colony workers strong and abundant. Here are a few ideas…
- Don’t let your bees forage for water. Instead of allowing your bees to find their own water, provide a safe water source close to the hive. The other sources where the bees forage may not be secure.
- Use shallow water. A wide water container with a gentle slope to the water’s edge allows the bees to land and walk to the water’s edge to collect water. The landing area should ideally be larger than the water area.
- Place floating objects in the water. Sticks or twigs, or even a piece of sponge floating on the water, can provide a safe place for the bees to land and collect what they need.
- Provide solid objects in the water. Solid objects in the water, such as rocks or pebbles that protrude above the water’s surface, provide a safe place for bees to land without drowning. They can make their way to the object and climb out if any fall in.
- Give your bees a drip water supply. Various methods can provide slow-release or drip water rather than a large body of water from which the bees must risk drowning.
You can also purchase one of these specially designed bee watering stations. These devices are specifically made to dispense water safely to your bees. (Amazon)
Admittedly, these are not the most attractive gadgets! If you prefer, you can easily make a DIY water station with a few simple items…
How Do You Make A Water Bowl For Bees?
The easiest and probably cheapest method to create a water bowl for your bees can be made with a few simple items you probably already have at home. This method is the one I use to keep the colonies close to my house well-supplied with water.
You will need:
- a plant pot overflow tray,
- a collection of appropriately sized stones from your garden,
- some water.
I like to use a plant pot water tray with a minimum diameter of about 12-inches or 30cm to provide a wide enough space so the bees do not compete for the water.
Bees also do not like cold water, so place the water bowl in an area where the sun can warm it during the day. (The little bees can quickly lose body temperature after a cold drink).
Honey bees are often attracted to impure water. The theory is that they find water by smell, so stronger-smelling water sources will be an attractant for bees. This is why bees are attracted to swimming pools. The chlorinated water provides a strong smell which the bees follow.
If you find that the bees are not using the water source you provide, you can improve the attractiveness of the liquid by mixing some salt into it. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of non-iodized, non-irradiated table salt in 1 gallon or 4.5 liters of water.
Salty water seems particularly attractive to honey bees, probably because it provides them with valuable minerals.
How Do I Keep Bees From Drowning In My Pond?
The best way to stop bees from drowning in your pond is to provide them with a safe water source close to the hive.
Another alternative is to provide them with some objects in the pond they can land on safely to drink the water. Growing water plants such as lily pads can also provide a safe drinking spot for your bees.
Other floating items such as sticks, a sponge, or a large rock or two that protrude above the water can also help the bees drink safely.
Why Are Bees Drowning In My Birdbath?
Bees are drowning in your bird bath because they are using it as a water source and the landing space is not large enough. In addition, the rim of most bird baths is typically narrow, with no gradual slope to the water.
Water sources of this design are a death trap for bees!
You can make your birdbath more bee-friendly by placing some large stones or rocks around the inside edge of the birdbath.
This increases the landing space for honey bees and leaves enough space in the center of the bird bath for the birds to cool off!
What About Automatic Bee Waterers?
Automatic bee waterers are helpful when your hives are not on your own property and you don’t have the opportunity to replenish the water supply daily.
You can find commercial automatic bee waterers such as the Water Dispenser Bee Waterer. You can also use other items such as a hummingbird feeder or a poultry water dispenser.
If you use a hummingbird feeder like this, fill the storage container with water only to provide your bees with a safe, automatic watering system.
Alternatively, an automatic poultry watering system such as the Harris Farms Poultry Drinker also works well if you add some stones or pebbles to the trough at the base. The stones provide a safe landing space for the bees to alight and collect water without drowning in the water. (Amazon links above)
The reservoirs in these containers provide storage space for water, so you do not need to refill them daily. The water will automatically flow out as the level in the feeding sections gets used up by the bees.
Providing safe drinking resources for bees is every beekeeper’s responsibility.
It’s also a neighborly thing to do! It’ll prevent your neighbors from complaining about all the bees drinking from their pool!
Constructing a safe dispenser close to the beehive is easy and stops bees from drowning.
It’s a win-win situation!
And it makes them more productive because they don’t need to travel far to collect water!