Many insects can obtain the water they need from their food. Bees, however, need to drink water. Honey bees use water to make honey and to cool the hive.
As the weather heats up, I thought I'd review some ways to provide water for bees in the garden. This is especially important in this drought year, as some typical water sources such as leaking faucets may not be available. This is what commercial beekeepers do; their “bee board” is just a fancy name for a board leaning underneath a slowly dripping faucet. This can be recreated in a more water-conserving way by placing a board under the faucet of a rain barrel.
At home I refill my barrels with water collected as the shower heats up. Home gardeners can also fill a shallow bird bath with stones or corks for perching. This is a great way to keep bees out of swimming pools.
Bee board under the slow drip from a rain barrel
A shallow bird bath with stones and corks for perching is a great bee water source in the home garden
In the Haven, we have custom-designed bee watering stations. Visitors may have noticed these hexagonal-shaped concrete pieces with groves scored in them. Water drips on them and collects in the grooves so that bees can stand on the concrete and drink from the groves. This works well when the weather is cool or shady, but once the sun hits the concrete the bees will no longer use it.
Honey bees drinking at the Haven's custom watering stations. Notice that the girls don't stand in water while they drink.
This year I've added a water source to the garden made from old soaker hoses.
This “beetainer” is based on an idea in the new book, “Handmade for the Garden” by Susan Guagliumi. Visitors will see it in the My Back Yard area of the Haven. This beetainer allows me to provide water for the bees while recapturing what they don't use to irrigate a great bee plant that would otherwise be too thirsty for our garden's watering regimen. The plant I've chosen is ‘Gateway' Joe Pye weed, Eutrochium purpureum ssp. maculatum ‘Gateway'. Joe Pye is an eastern US native and a fall bee and butterfly favorite.
The "beetainer" bee water source and planter made from a used soaker hose
Here's how it's done:
First step in the beetainer construction: make sure the faucet end faces out and use a zip-tie to attach the two rows
Next step: continue to attach each row to the one below with a zip-tie. Face the end of the zip-ties to the interior of the container.
The completed container. I left the zip-tie ends as shown since they did not interfere with planting