Water Sources for Honeybees

Do I need to provide water for my honeybees?

This depends on where you live. In Utah, in an isolated desert area, the answer is definitely yes. In a residential area, where broken sprinklers, and fountains abound, you may not need to, but it would be a considerate thing to do if your bees have invaded the neighbor’s swimming pool. Here are a few low-cost ways to water your bees, if you choose to. And you’ll probably be surprised how much water a colony of bees will drink, especially in dry, hot summer sun.

One way to provide water for honeybees is to provide a chicken waterer with some stones in the base (see photo above). Bees can use the stones as a perch while they drink. They are not good swimmers and need a shallow water source. This is the easiest way for us to water bees, as the water tray refills itself until the tank is empty. There is also less waste and evaporation than other methods. 

Bees will learn the water source location and come back to it as long as it doesn’t dry up. Naturally, they do this with streams, drinking from them until they are gone, then finding a new source. Consider where you put the waterer carefully, and out of high traffic areas. 

Our bees’ favorite watering hole is a broken sprinkler that runs over a rock wall. The little spots you see in the photo below are honeybees. We call it the honeybee day spa because there are flowers, water, and pollen all nearby. Water flows about knee-deep for the bees. They seem to prefer this rock over all other water sources. 

Another way to water bees is to use a jelly roll pan filled with a shallow amount of water. This is a convenient way as they are common in kitchens. Watch the water level closely, as you may need to refill it more than once on a hot day. The water will evaporate quickly as there is more water surface area. 

(The photo is from an experiment in alternate ways to extract honey. This one is the result of letting an uncapped frame sit on a cookie sheet for 2 weeks. It really didn’t work. There is only a scant amount of honey for 2 weeks of waiting in 90 degree weather.)