7 Tips for Creating a Bee Watering Station

Honey bees use nectar as their primary water source, but they need more than one type of water source to survive.

Bees need a reliable source of clean water for drinking, bathing, air conditioning, humidity control inside the hive, increasing the moisture content in the honey, and many other reasons to live happy healthy lives, just like we do.

Worker bees collect water they need from a variety of different places. They may drink from natural sources of water like puddles, ponds, rivers, rainwater, dew, or suck up water from the ground using their long tongues.They may also drink water from structures such as a bird bath or a swimming pool.

These bees fill their honey stomach with water and deposit it in the hive where it is needed.

Bees arrive at the hive

But here’s the tricky part, water can get contaminated reasonably easily!

No matter where they find it, bees appreciate a clean source of water. If they have to drink dirty water from a polluted or infected source, they may become ill and spread the sickness to other bees or lead other bees to drink the same water.

Yikes! We could lose our entire hive with one little sip!

So what’s a homesteading beekeeper to do?

Let’s look at how we can help our hive thrive and survive as new beekeepers and even seasoned beekeepers may find these tips helpful.

Should I Leave a Water Source Out for My Honey bees?

Yes! Offering a honeybee watering station is a great way to help your bees!

honeybees drinking from a watering station

Honey bee health can be put at risk because polluted and infected water sources are everywhere. Here are some common ones that our bees could find.

  • Pesticides from our garden or our neighbors
  • Harmful synthetic chemicals from cleaning products and other chemicals that might get spilled outdoors and leak into puddles or other places the bees might find
  • Wild bees, other neighboring honeybee colonies, and other insects can spread sickness to our unaware healthy hive just by drinking from the same source
  • Harmful bacteria growing in the available water sources
  • Some herbicides are also deadly to bees

Don’t worry, the good news is, I have a solution for you. Bees need a lot of water, and building a safe bee watering station can help our hives.

Your bees’ water station doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should meet the honey bee’s safety and hydration requirements by providing water for bees.

The best part is, it’s easier and cheaper than you think to provide water for bees! Let’s discuss the basics of creating your water station.

7 Tips for Creating a Safe Honeybee Watering Station

Tip #1 Give the Bees Something to Hold Onto

Bees need a safe place to land and stand while they drink; they’re terrible swimmers, and a quick dip could spell catastrophe for our winged friends. Using a shallow dish filled with a good amount of stones, wine corks, or even glass pebbles to help them latch on and pull themself out of danger. You can also use a bird bath or even a large clay pot saucer as your bee waterer.

Glass pebbles and water added to terra cotta saucer to make a honey bee watering station

But remember to add in the landing gear and make sure whatever you use is above the water level to prevent drowning risk to your bees.

Tip #2 Elevate the Honeybee Water Station

The water station should be elevated off the ground so ants, spiders, other animals, and other unwanted guests can’t get to the water or your honey bees. These unwanted visitors can harm your bees. You can elevate your station by using a stand, bricks, or hanging it from a rope.

Items you probably have around your homestead may work just as well.

Tip #3 Use A Convenient Shallow Container

Make sure the station is easy to fill and clean. You’ll want to check on it often, especially if you’re using a birdbath or other open-source container. Create a schedule to clean the station regularly or whenever needed. Change the water daily, or more often with excess heat during the summer months, and your station isn’t in the shade for most of the day.

**We chose to use terra cotta saucers. The kids painted them, but we made sure to keep the paint out of the area that the water will touch.

Painting terra cotta saucers for honey bee watering stations

Tip #4 Keep Water Close to the Bee Hive

Place the station in an area that is easily accessible to the bees and not too far away. About 100ft or so away from the hive should do. Worker bees will fly a few miles away from their hive for fresh water collection, so make sure your clean water source is close. 

Doing this can also help prevent your bees from venturing out long distances like to your neighbor’s saltwater pools, even chlorine pools or bird baths where they could easily drown.

colorful bees hives in an apiary

Tip #5 Use Attractant

Use a small amount of attractant (sugar syrup, honey, or even crushed oyster shells) to lure your bees for the first few days, then use plain water. The honey bees should have a good habit of collecting water at the station by then, and you won’t have to attract bees anymore. Adding more safe water sources can be helpful too. 

Some beekeepers don’t recommend adding sugar syrup / sugar water because it can dilute the honey and cause bacteria to grow inside your hive, but I use it in moderation with no issues.

Tip #6 Keep the Water Source Full and Thawed

Make sure the water doesn’t run dry during the hot dry summer or freeze up during the chilly winter months when water could be in short supply. The water should be deep enough that the bees can drink from it but shallow enough not to drown. 

Buying a chicken watering heater might be a good idea to prevent freezing.

honeybees drinking water

Tip #7 Set Up BEFORE Bringing Bees In

It’s ideal to have your bee watering stations set up in your apiary before getting your first colony. When a bee discovers a reliable water source, it’s hard to get them to change their habits, so setting them up for success from the beginning.

But if your apiary is already buzzing with bees, apply the tips from above.

I hope these tips will help you create a safe bee watering station and ensure your bees are well hydrated. Remember to keep a close eye on your station in your spare time and change the water as needed. Check out my other posts on homestead beekeeping. Don’t forget to come back and leave a comment with the success you’ve had leading your honey bees to drinking water.

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