Water For Honey Bees

I’ve provided water for my honey bees over the past few weeks by pouring water into a bowl full of marbles. It works better than anything I’ve tried before.

Honey bees drinking water from a bowl full of marbles. (August 28, 2015.)

Honey bees drinking water from a bowl full of marbles. (August 28, 2015.)

I got the idea from Honey Bee Suite. Here’s a video that shows how it works:



I don’t normally concern myself with providing water for my honey bees. I live on the island of Newfoundland, one of the wettest places you’ll ever see. The bees can drink water off the soaking wet earth every other day if they’re thirsty. But a few weeks ago I noticed the bees drinking from every source of standing water around my yard. That kind of gave me the feeling they needed more water than usual. And it makes sense. The bees don’t only drink water. They also evaporate it inside the hive to help regulate the temperature of the brood, and it’s been exceptionally hot in my beeyard for the past five or six weeks. The bees have drunk from the bowl full of marbles every day since I set it up. It’s impressive how quickly they drink it down.

The salt I added to the water on the first day has long since washed away and the bees don’t seem to care. That surprises me because I’ve observed honey bees drinking dirty stinking water many times in the past and I thought the briny odour, along with the minerals provided by the salt, would attract the bees. It’s possible the bees were initially attracted to the bowl by the briny odour but keep returning only because they’ve homed in on the position of the bowl. Perhaps I’ll move the bowl to a new location and see how quickly the bees discover it and see if they keep returning to it. Perhaps I’ll add a sprinkle of salt for flavour from time to time too. That’s probably not a bad idea. Whatever’s going on, the bees seemed to need more water and a bowl full of marbles did the trick.

A chicken waterer can to provide water for bees too. It looks like this:

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

April 2019 Postscript: I admit the bowl full of marbles is very pretty and works, though I don’t think it’s necessary. The best water dish I inadvertently discovered was a terracotta clay saucer that I had banging around my yard that happened to fill with spruce cones and sticks and a bit of rain.

Terracotta clay saucer used as a watering dish for bees.

One of those saucers with rocks, marbles, sticks or whatever probably works as well as anything else.

Dr. Rachael Bonoan, whose curiosity I admire, studied the mineral preferences of honey bees when drinking water, an area of study that stemmed from her observation of honey bees drinking dirty water. She concluded that honey bees likely drink dirty water as a way to supplement the minerals in the floral diet. She said, “Dirty water is like a vitamin supplement for bees.”

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