When most people think about bees, they don’t imagine them drinking water. In fact, “Do Honeybees drink water?” is a question asked by many new beekeepers and it can be a source of confusion. Honeybees do drink water, and they require a reliable supply of water throughout the year like any other animal. They can become dehydrated if they don’t have access to water close by.
When you consider a source of drinking water for bees it’s important that it doesn’t run dry and that it’s not shared with other animals.
Reasons Why Honey Bees Need Water
- Honeybees drink water
- They use it to control humidity in the hive
- To cool the internal temperatures.
- When bees are nursing they require water to produce jelling which they feed to the larvae.
If you’ve ever had an older jar of honey that’s developed hard crystals, it’s easier to understand the need for water. Bees thin the honey with water if it has become thicker and/or crystallized to make the honey easier to access. Water is not stored in the hive, the bees must bring it in and this is why they need ready access all year round.
The Importance of Water for Bees
If you look carefully at nearby sources of water, you may see bees gathering water there. But, streams, rivers, and ponds are not an ideal source of clean water and beekeepers need to think carefully about water collection for their colonies.
Bees may be small, but a single colony will have thousands of individual bees and the needs are even more extreme if you have multiple hives. It’s important to have a suitable spot for your honeybees to collect water and this may take some time.
You may observe your bees drinking from puddles or other locations but you need to protect them from contamination. Many bodies of water contain pesticides and other harmful chemicals that can harm your honeybees. If you can get the bees to collect and drink water that you supply in your yard you can keep them safe and maintain a consistent supply.
If you’re an urban beekeeper, this can be tricky because even runoff water can contain contaminants such as fertilizers, salts, and lawn care byproducts.
How Bees Collect Water
Hopefully, we’ve answered the question “Do bees drink water?” but you may be wondering how they collect the water that the hive needs. As we mentioned earlier, the water is not stored in the honeycomb cells of the hive like pollen, nectar, and honey. The water is constantly collected by a certain percentage of bees each day.
The bees fly to their preferred water source and they use the same pumping action that they use to harvest nectar. They hover above the water, suck it up and store it in their honey stomach. Then they carry the tiny volume of water back to the hive where they visit various locations and distribute it to bees that need to drink.
Then they repeat the process to ensure that the hive is hydrated throughout the entire day.
Creating a Water Source for Your Bees
It’s natural to wonder how to create a source of clean drinking water for your honeybees. We’ve already mentioned that some open water sources are contaminated, and they can harm the health of your bees. If you’re lucky, you may have a clean stream or river nearby but, in many areas, this is not the case. Even if you have clean water some distance away, this will affect the bees because they will need to expend significant energy reserves to transport it to the hive.
Studies have shown that honeybees can travel a long distance to find the resources that they need for the hive. So, if they have ready access to clean water, they will prefer to use them to improve their foraging efficiency. This will allow the bees to focus on other priorities and their health will be protected.
How and Where to Put a Water Supply for Honey Bees
The solution is simple, and it can be scaled to meet the needs of your colony. The most basic approach is to place a quart jar feeder near the front of the hive and top it up regularly. A better option is to fill a plant tray with twigs, leaves, and pebbles and top it up with clean water regularly. This creates safe areas where the bees can land, drink and fill their honey stomach with water with a reduced risk of drowning. Water will evaporate quickly on hot days, so it’s important to keep an eye on the water levels.
Creating a bee watering area is a great idea, even if you don’t have any hives of your own. If you have a smaller yard or even a balcony, you can help out your local bees with somewhere to drink and collect clean water. It’s fascinating to watch them, they will have more time for local pollination activities and it’s an easy way to improve the local environment.
By Purchasing a Bee Waterer, you will be able to place it close to where your beehives are.
Reasons for Getting a Bee Waterer
- Bees won’t drown trying to get water
- Water supply close to the bees
- Water is kept clean and without contaminants
- Yellow attracts the bees
- There are no spills
Frequently Asked Questions about Giving Your Bees Water
Should I Put Out Water for Bees?
Yes, adding a consistent source of water for your bees and local bees is important for the local environment.
Should I Put Out Sugar Water?
This is an option if you don’t have any bee-friendly pollen rich flowers in your local area. Observe the bees closely, sometimes they do rest and this can be mistaken for a lack of resources.
What is the Ideal Water Source Distance from a Beehive?
As long as the water source you create is closer to the hive than other open water sources, it will become the preferred drinking and collection spot. A few feet away from the hive is ideal, the bee can load up on water and complete a round trip quickly.
Can a Bee Drink Stagnant Water?
Bees can choose stagnant water from muddy ponds and ditches, and they may even be attracted to the smell of chlorine and salt which lures them into swimming pools. But, if they have a closer source of clean water nearby, they are less likely to stray too far.
What are Bee’s Water Requirements in Winter?
Bees consume and collect less water during the winter months, but they still need water to thin out stored honey for feeding.
Can Bees Swim?
If a bee lands in the water they can’t swim, but they are capable of using their wings as tiny hydrofoils to escape the surface tension and get free.
How Much Water Do Bees Need?
Each bee will collect around 25mg of water during approximately 50 trips. If there is insufficient water, the worker bees will stop foraging and begin water collection duties. During the height of summer, a typical hive would require several liters of water daily.