This is a very simple, feel-good, kid friendly project.
Why water and feed bees?
Bees and other pollinators need water to live, just as other animals do. Water is also used to help keep the hive cool, for thinning the nectar that they feed to larva, as well as keeping the humidity inside the hive at correct levels during dry times. The bees take the water back to the nest and the water droplets are fanned by worker bees, this cools the nest and keeping the conditions right for egg development. Bees need lots water when it is hot and dry out. A single beehive/colony may need 2 quarts per day in the hot summertime.
Honey bees, other bees, and pollinators learn and remember where their water sources are. It is important to make sure you are watering your pollinators regularly and consistently. Try to avoid moving the your bee waterer around and to try to keep the bees away from other water sources such as pools and pet bowls, place your bee waterer away from the areas where you don’t particularly want them.
Best water to use
While we can regularly see bees congregating around swimming pools, leaky spigots, and pet dishes, the best water to use is not tap water. Bees prefer “dirty” water, probably to obtain salts and nutrients found in natural “dirty” water. (Unfortunately they also find contaminated “dirty” water.)
The best water to give your bees is rain water or distilled water. If you want to help out just a little bit more, throw in a handful of compost or garden manure.
Making the Bee Waterer is very simple, and it is a fantastic way to take a step towards helping out the planet. It is also fun for kids (who doesn’t like playing with water and rocks?) and a valuable way to teach them ecology and being good stewards of the earth.
What you will need for the Bee Waterer
Assortment of different sized rocks
Optional – sticks or corks, natural material that floats
Bee Waterer Instructions
Start with a shallow vessel. Here is a chance for you to be creative and use what you have on hand or go out and buy something that suites your yard and your particular look.
Possible ideas – a decorative birdbath that doesn’t hold much water anyway, the saucer portion of a plastic or terra cotta planter, a pie plate, a shallow pottery dish, shallow succulent trays, and so forth
Next come the rocks or other material for the pollinators to stand on. Bees and butterflies cannot land in standing water, so be sure they have a place to land and not too deep of water.
Rocks – again, you can be creative. I used small and medium river rocks because I like the way they look. You could use the decorative glass marbles, you could use a little piece of artificial turf, a jute or bamboo woven mat … all sorts of possibilities.
Place your rocks or platform material in the shallow vessel.
Here is where you can throw in a handful of compost, if you are a composter or garden manure.
Add the water, making sure it is not too deep. They have to have dry landing areas and then dip down into the water.
You can also throw in some sticks, cork, or other material that floats to give them little rafts. Maybe your kids could make (safe) bee rafts out of popsicle sticks.
Viola! There you have it, your own little bee resort.
What you will need for the Bee Feeder
Small rocks or sticks to prop the feeder on
Jar with screw top lid – could be Mason jar, salsa jar, peanut butter jar
Very small nail or drill bit to make holes in the lid
Take your shallow vessel and line it with small rocks or sticks. These rocks or sticks are going to keep the bee feeder elevated to allow the sugar water to escape and the bees to feed.
Next, take the lid of the jar you are going to use and poke very small holes in the lid.
You can do this with a very small nail or drill bit. If you are using a nail, try to just pierce the lid, but not drive the nail through.
Sugar water mix.
Use just plain white sugar and distilled or rain water.
In the summer, use a 1 part sugar to 1 part water ratio and in the fall you can use a 2 part sugar to 1 part water mixture.
Make the sugar water solution in your jar and give it a shake or a stir.
Invert the jar and make sure it is propped up a bit by the rocks or other material.
Place in your yard or garden away from kids and pets.
There you have it – the restaurant to go along with the pool at your backyard bee resort!