Should You Provide Drinking Water for Bees?

Updated: Feb. 01, 2024

You're probably already providing a bird bath for your feathered friends, but did you know bees need water, too? Here's how to give it to them.

Bees are not going extinct, but they’re declining in population due to habitat loss, pesticide use, disease, climate change and monoculture farming. This is a cause for concern, since bees play a vital role in pollinating crops and maintaining ecosystems.

Keeping bees hydrated goes a long way toward sustaining them. Here are a few easy steps homeowners can take to provide drinking water for bees.

Offer Fresh Water for Bees in the Backyard

“Bees take over my bird bath. How can I keep the bird bath peace?” writes Ruth Schroeder of Wausaukee, Wisconsin.

This is a serious challenge. Bees are important pollinators and shouldn’t be harmed, and anything that repels them from a spot may also be bad for birds. The best option is to offer an alternate water source for the bees. A shallow dish of water close to a flower bed may help lure them away.

One approach is to prepare a shallow basin with a layer of marbles on the bottom and just enough water to almost cover them. That gives the bees plenty of places to land and drink. And keeping the saucer free of algae is simple, since marbles are much easier to clean than pebbles or other rough objects.

Keep Bees Away From Your Bird Bath

“Our neighbor raises honeybees. Every summer bees take over our bird bath, and the birds won’t use it. The bees prefer our bath to the neighbor’s water. How can we discourage the bees from drinking from our bath?” writes Myra and Gene Hall of Hiram, Georgia.

Honeybees tend to be creatures of habit, going back repeatedly to a reliable source of nectar or water. To get them to break this habit, we suggest that you drain the birdbath and dry it out completely. Then, closer to your neighbor’s yard, put out an alternative water source.

A tray filled with gravel, with just enough water to reach the top of the gravel, will provide an easy landing place for the bees. Once they’re in the habit of visiting the new source, you can refill your bird bath and the bees shouldn’t mob it.