Why You Need a Bee Bath in Your Garden

Pollinators need to drink! We'll help you create a custom-designed spot for them to sip.

Honey Bee On Coreopsis

Honey Bee On Coreopsis

Honey bees and other pollinators are drawn to the sunny flowers of coreopsis or tickseed.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

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When bees and other pollinators buzz and zip through your garden, it’s easy to overlook their water needs. But like all living creatures, pollinators need a reliable water source. Bees and their cousins often sip dew on leaves, irrigation water droplets or moisture from a leaky hose connection. 

You can do your part to create a spot where bees of all sorts can safely gather to sip. Set it up at any point in the growing season, and you’ll soon be rewarded with visiting pollinators. Check out these two ideas for creating a bee bath, which you can easily adapt to make your own custom bee watering hole.

Deep Bee Bath

Materials For Deep Bee Bath

Materials For Deep Bee Bath

A deep bee bath doesn’t need refilled as often. Gather materials to make it: plastic pan, dried stems, salt wheel for rabbits and stones to weigh it down.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

  • deep plastic pan
  • dried stems or sticks
  • salt wheel for rabbits
  • stones

A deeper bee bath doesn’t need to be refilled as often. Choose a pan in the blue-violet color range to attract the greatest variety of bees. Bumblebees are drawn to violet (their favorite) and blue flowers, while honeybees prefer yellow and blue. Social wasps, which includes the aggressive types, gravitate toward yellow, but a blue-toned container attracts many solitary, docile wasps, including thread-waisted wasps, mud daubers and potter wasps—all of which are great pollinators.

Use a few large stones from your yard to weigh down the bee bath. This helps with windy summer storms and curious wildlife that might stop for a drink. Add a salt wheel for rabbits to provide minerals that pollinators, especially honey bees, need.

Stones And Salt Wheel In Bee Bath

Stones And Salt Wheel In Bee Bath

Use a few large stones to weigh down your bee bath. Add a salt wheel for rabbits to provide minerals to polinators.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Bees need a ladder to access water safely—without fear of drowning. Use dried woody perennial stems, sticks, chicken wire or a piece of fencing to give pollinators a way to climb down to water, sip and climb back out. Pollinators need dry footing for landing and take-off.

Bee Bath With Stems

Bee Bath With Stems

Insert a few spent stems or piece of fencing into the bee bath to provide a ladder for bees to use to climb down to the water.

Photo by: Julie Martens

Julie Martens

Place the bee bath in a spot in your yard that won’t become a problem if many bees access it. If a local bee hive discovers and relies on your bee bath, you could easily have upwards of 40 to 50 bees visiting at a time, so it’s a good idea to site the bath where a cloud of bees won’t trouble you, your family or pets. Siting it near plants they like to visit, like zinnias and mint, helps them discover it quickly.

Bee Bath By Zinnias

Bee Bath By Zinnias

Place your bee bath near a plant that’s mobbed by pollinators, like mint or zinnias.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Shallow Bee Bath

Bee Bath Materials Rocks And Moss

Bee Bath Materials Rocks And Moss

Rocks, moss and broken terra-cotta pots provide ideal materials for a bee bath.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

  • moss
  • broken terra-cotta pot pieces
  • stones
  • 8-inch-square baking dish
  • shallow tray

This bee bath design offers several water access options to attract the greatest variety of pollinators. A blue tray also helps attract many different pollinators.

Use stones to wedge the baking dish into place on the serving tray. Add broken pieces of terra-cot flower pots to the baking dish. Large pot pieces will serve as dry landing pads for bees. Used pots work well because they are suffused with fertilizer salts, which helps provide minerals for thirsty pollinators.

Use Rocks To Anchor Bee Bath Dish

Use Rocks To Anchor Bee Bath Dish

Arrange rocks to anchor the baking dish, which forms the deepest part of the bee bath. Place broken terra-cotta pieces in the baking dish to serve as ladders for thirsty pollinators.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Arrange a few larger stones on the terra-cotta pieces to provide a ladder for pollinators to use as they crawl down to water.

Place Rocks On Pot Pieces

Place Rocks On Pot Pieces

Arrange a few larger stones on the terra-cotta pot pieces.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Add moss pieces around stones. The moss absorbs water, creating a moist, sponge-like surface that small pollinators will land on and drink from. Gently pour water into the baking dish and the plastic tray. This provides multiple places for pollinators to land and drink.

Add Moss And Water To Bee Bath

Add Moss And Water To Bee Bath

Moss absorbs water, giving pollinators a sponge-like landing pad that they can drink from. Add water so that it only covers part of the stones.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Place your bee bath in a corner of a planting bed where it’s sunny most of the day. Bees do best with warm water. A cold drink can actually lower a pollinator’s body temperature, making them unable to fly.

Bee Bath With Stones And Moss

Bee Bath With Stones And Moss

This bee bath offers several spots for pollinators to drink, including the moss’s spongy surface and the stones in and around the glass baking dish.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Maintaining Your Bee Bath

Pollinators seek out both fresh water and stagnant water. For many bees, finding water is a matter of scent—they smell water before they see it. Allowing the water to become stagnant can help bees find it, but doing that runs the risk of allowing mosquitoes to reproduce. Refresh the water in a bee bath every few days, cleaning and/or replacing materials as needed. Once pollinators find a reliable water source, they will return again and again.

If pollinators aren’t visiting your bee bath after a few days, dab some lemongrass essential oil in a few spots on the edges of the bath. That scent lures honey bees, and other pollinators will follow.

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