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.
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
- deep plastic pan
- dried stems or sticks
- salt wheel for rabbits
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.
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.
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.
Shallow Bee Bath
- broken terra-cotta pot pieces
- 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.
Arrange a few larger stones on the terra-cotta pieces to provide a ladder for pollinators to use as they crawl down to water.
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.
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.
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.