Pollinating plants all day is thirsty work! Fortunately, we can help bees out by providing safe havens where they can stop to sip and chat with their fellow workers briefly before moving along.
Also known as “bee baths,” bee waterers are little wet areas where our buzzy, honey-making friends can stop for a drink. Bees have it hard enough between insecticides, colony collapse, and climate change. It’s important to help our pollinator friends.
Keep reading to learn about three easy-to-make waterers that you can put together in just a few minutes.
1. Saucer-Style Bee Waterers
These are probably the easiest type of bee waterer to make. Even better, they can be assembled with things you likely already have at home. That means an investment of absolutely $0 as far as craft materials go, but a huge return as far as taking care of wildlife is concerned.
Grab a shallow bowl or saucer and a handful of small rocks or marbles.
The stones should be appropriate to the saucer’s scale so there will be surface area to stand on once water is added to the dish. My favorite type of container to use is the saucer of a terracotta pot. So many of my pots break in storage that there are always a few extra saucers lying around.
Wash the dish and stones with some hot, soapy water, and rinse well. Then arrange the stones in the saucer, and add water. Add enough so the water reaches about halfway up the sides of the stones. Those little rocks are for the bees to stand on safely while they drink.
I like to use marbles or glass aquarium “stones” in mine because their bright hues attract bees much more easily than grey rocks.
When you’re ready, situate the water in an area where the bees are most likely to find it, but it’s unlikely to be disturbed by animals, children, or oblivious gardeners. I like to place mine on raised areas like stumps so nobody trips on them. Alternatively, you can position them in amongst flower beds where few other beings are likely to wander in.
2. A Tall Stick with Bottle Caps or Shells Glued On
This is another easy option for bee waterers that doesn’t require much as far as monetary investments go. All you need is a fairly large stick, a handful of plastic bottle caps, and a hot glue gun.
Do your family members consume a lot of bottled drinks, such as water, juices, and sodas? Then save the brightly colored caps for this project.
Find a large, sturdy stick somewhere outside, and cut one end into a point. This will allow you to push or hammer it into the ground fairly easily.
Then, plug in that handy hot glue gun of yours, and glue the bottle caps around the stick. Aim to alternate them so there are plenty of watering stations, and keep them a few inches apart as you go. Hold each one in place until the glue sets before moving on to the next one.
Then, take it out into the garden. You’ll want to place this in a slightly shaded spot so the sun doesn’t melt the glue off. Once it’s positioned (preferably in amongst some flowers, herbs, or vegetables), fill each bottle cap with water.
The ridges and textures around the bottle cap will allow little bee feet to gain purchase so they don’t slide off. Furthermore, several bees will be able to drink at the same time without competing for resources. This is ideal if you have a variety of bee and wasp species around.
3. Bee-Sized Sipping Cups
If you’re fond of working with polymer clays like Sculpey, then consider making some little cup-shaped bee waterers for them.
Choose polymer clay in a variety of different hues, and roll pieces into cylinders. Aim to make them about 6 inches long. Then form one end into a cup shape so it’s fairly thick, but has a depression pressed into it. Basically, you’re making what looks like a golf peg, but with a much longer stem.
Bake these according to the directions on the package, then allow them to cool completely. Once they’ve cured and cooled, take them out into the garden and push them into the soil wherever you like. I put these into herb and flower pots, but they also look lovely in rock gardens, in amongst ground-creeping plants, etc.
You can make the stems as long as you like so you can have staggered heights as you go along. Try to ensure that the cups are at least 2 inches above ground level, though you can go as tall as you like.
These look amazing when they’re grouped together in a range of different sizes and colors.
Whenever you water your plants, these little cups will collect moisture as well. The polymer has enough texture that the bees can grip onto the cups, and the waterers themselves look like adorable little bee-sized goblets.
How to Care for Your Bee Waterers
You’re probably already aware that standing water attracts mosquitoes as an attractive egg-laying site. Since none of us want to see these insects thrive, be sure to change out the water regularly.
Additionally, changing the water and cleaning the container (and whatever’s in it) will also eliminate harmful bacteria and algae. We’re aiming to keep bees healthy, not contribute to their demise, right?
Once a week, empty all the liquid out of your bee waterers into the garden. Then bring them inside and soak them in a tub of hot, soapy water. You can even add a splash of vinegar or peroxide into the water if desired.
Scrub everything with a cleaning brush or old toothbrush, and allow it all to dry in the sunshine. Once fully dried, piece everything back together in their original locations and fill with fresh water.
If you’ve made bottle cap or shell waterers, you can scrub them outside instead. Just use a toothbrush and dish soap to scrub all the little bits well. Then rinse very thoroughly and allow to dry before refilling.
Check the waterers once a day to make sure they haven’t evaporated. Then top up as needed to ensure your bee friends always have a place to drink.
Make Your Neighborhood Bees Happy
You can make your bee waterers more appealing to various species by offering ideal locations. For example, nestle the waterers in an area where there are plenty of indigenous flower species. Their bright hues and irresistible nectar will beckon the bees over.
Then, once they’ve sipped and rolled around in pollen, they can rehydrate nearby before going back to their nests.
If you’re keen on fending off as many mosquitoes as possible, you can also plant repellent species nearby. Plant lemon balm, lemongrass, thyme, lavender, catnip, bee balm (Monarda ), and marigolds might help keep them at bay.
By putting out these bee waterers, all manner of species will be able to stay well-hydrated as they do their daily work. As an added bonus, you won’t just get bee visitors: butterflies, moths, and even hummingbirds may show up as well.
You’ll be improving the health and wellbeing of your entire local ecosystem simply by offering some small insects a sip of water.
Isn’t that amazing?