Watering the Bees

With the promise of a long hot summer unfolding before us, beaches, lakes and rivers provide refuge and a place of rest. I relish that first shock of cold on the toes, gingerly entering the water. Nothing feels better than immersing yourself in cool water on a hot day. This past weekend I went on a grueling hike with the promise of a beautiful lake as a prize. After 7 hours of steep climbs and long drops, rock faces and swamp brush, whining mosquitoes and biting flies, a lake nestled in the mountain peaks of North Vancouver sounds just heavenly.

Elsay Lake, seen from Elsay Peak.

We are not alone in our need for, and enjoyment of, a nice dip in the water. The birds and the bees also need a safe place to land for a fresh drink of water and to replenish the water for their colony. In summer, a colony of bees requires at least a liter of water every day, possibly more when temperatures soar. An industrious species, bees can find water in a multitude of places, including from clothes hanging on a line to dry or a bird bath. Though they are diligent, we can help all our pollinator friends  by providing a safe, shallow, fresh water source to satiate their thirst on a hot day.

Before putting a big bowl of water out, hoping to provide liquid relief to the bees, there are a few important things to note. Take a look at this short video from David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green, along with Border Free Bees team member Brian Campbell, about making your own bee bath.

The David Suzuki Foundation website also provides an simple list of instructions for making the best bath for bees:

  • Line a shallow bowl or plate with rocks.
  • Add water, but leave the rocks as dry islands to serve as landing pads.
  • Place the bath at the ground level in your garden. (Put it near “problem plants” — those that get aphids, for example — and the beneficial insects that come to drink will look after them.)
  • Refresh the water daily, adding just enough to evaporate by day’s end.

Whether you are hoping to draw bees, butterflies, birds or other creatures to your bath, providing a fresh water source is of great importance during the summer months. With water shortages in BC, smaller natural water sources, such as ponds, ditch water and sloughs are quickly drying up. Keeping a small dish of water out will help pollinators on their busy days and keep their colonies watered.


Other Useful Sources:

Flottum, Kim. The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden. Gloucester, Mass.: Quarry, 2005. Print.

Garvey, Kathy Keatley. “Why Honey Bees Need Water.” Bug Squad: Happenings in the insect world. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources. 30 Aug 2013. Web. 6 July 2015.