Honey bees are notoriously poor swimmers and can drown easily in even small amounts of water. To ensure your bees’ safety, ensure their bee water feeder has rocks or other items protruding out from it as landing pads for them to use when landing safely in their feeder.
Use a hive frame feeder (also called division board feeder). These containers the size of a full Langstroth frame are placed into the top box of your hive for easy feeding.
Pebbles or smaller river stones
Home gardeners can attract bees by placing a bowl or dish of water with pebbles near flowerbeds to provide bees a place to rest – an essential aspect of pollination! Without bees pollinators would not produce as many blooming flowers, fruits or vegetables!
Choose a shallow bowl or dish made of plastic as it may leach chemicals into the water. Natural, non-toxic filler such as river stones or smaller pebbles make bees landing easier, plus they’re cheap!
To create a bee bath, spread pebbles across the bottom of a dish and pour water over them. For an extra creative twist, consider adding beach-inspired elements such as sand, sea shells and driftwood; alternatively create woodland streams using moss, twigs and bark from around your backyard or Elmers washable glue. It dries within hours.
Corks are made from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber), making them a natural, renewable, and sustainable material that’s non-absorptive, hypoallergenic, heat and fireproof and waterproof – an excellent alternative to materials like wood, fiberglass and plastic! Cork’s unique aesthetic also makes it great for yoga blocks, furniture, fruit bowls, wallpaper, shoes – and even props in movies!
Corks can provide bees with something to cling onto in their water feeder. Corks may also be placed inside a frame feeder – which replaces one of the frames in your Langstroth hive so you can feed your bees without risk of robbers or drowning – to provide them with food without being exposed to predators or drowning.
Cork quality differs widely depending on both its source forest and tree. Cork oaks take nine years before producing their first harvest of “virgin” bark for harvesting; after which time, another nine years are needed before it can be harvested again.
Marbles or glass stones
One of the easiest DIY bee waterers is to purchase a bag of multicolored marbles (or glass pebbles) from a craft store and place them into any shallow container such as a bowl, pan or planter’s bottom saucer. Alternatively, use a mason jar fitted with plastic sprouting lid, hanging poultry feeder or even hummingbird waterer as appropriate.
These materials don’t wear away in water and provide thirsty bees with a steady perch on which to land. As necessary, change out your water daily, while cleaning marbles/pebbles and bowl regularly to avoid mosquito proliferating in still waters.
Some beekeepers add a pinch of chlorine bleach to the water, which kills any bacteria present on stones, while others prefer adding ground oyster shells, giving the mixture an appealing ocean scent which bees find alluring.
Clay saucers (plastic will work in an emergency), terracotta pots and shallow dish/trough are all great ways to provide bees with freshwater sources.
Bird baths make excellent bee water sources due to their shallow depth and bees’ tendency to perch on the edge while drinking. Just beware not to place it too close to your hive as larger animals could find it irresistibly tasty!
Some beekeepers opt to place a container upside-down on top of a frame super to provide bees with water and provide drinking holes, although this method can become messy over time and requires them to lift the lid periodically to check on them. Still, it provides simple access for bees while eliminating contamination risk from animals or birds and works particularly well during the winter when access to inspections can be limited.