how to water for bees

See an innovative and stunning water feature for thirsty bees

All bees need a place to drink. This stunning water feature provides a continuous supply of fresh water for many pollinators including bees.

Inside: Take a look at a unique water feature that allows bees to drink from a variety of surfaces and a selection of heights. It’s everything a thirty bee could want.

What every bee needs is a good watering hole, and the bees at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture in Corvallis, Oregon have the fanciest one I’ve seen.

How the water feature works

Water comes in through a drip irrigation-type system. The hose from the source runs up the side of the structure and through the middle of the piece of bamboo that stretches across the width. Holes are drilled through the top side of the bamboo pole and drip emitters appear at regular intervals. I don’t remember how many there were, but it seems like it was about six.

The water seeps from the emitters and drips from the bamboo into a trough filled with mossy plants. The plants look yellow in the photo, but this was taken coming out of winter when moss often looks pale.

Overflow from the moss drips down the sides of the rocks, which remain wet throughout the summer. A bed of rocks below the structure acts as a drain for the rest of the water.

Bees and other pollinators have many choices

Bees have many options. For example, they can take water straight from the emitters, from the moss, from the rocks, or from the ground underneath. Honey bees, native bees, and a variety of other pollinators can meet here for refreshment and conversation.

If you already have a drip system in your garden or yard, it would be easy to add a water feature. It wouldn’t need to be nearly so big, of course. This one is huge, but I can imagine building something similar maybe two feet tall and three feet wide, depending on how many hives you have.

If any of you try this, please let me know. I’d love to see what you build.

Honey Bee Suite

A bee watering device at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture.
A bee watering device at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture.


  • Speaking of water, I just moved bees into my new backyard that has a pool. I am worried about the chlorinated water ultimately being a problem. What do you think/know? And would it be advisable to put an alternate fresh water source close to the hive to keep them out of the pool? If you’ve already addressed this feel free to point me to that blog.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Yup, they may be attracted to the scent of chlorine. The chlorine won’t hurt them because they drink so little, but the bees can intimidate people in the pool. The post to read is “Love that dirty water.” It will give you some ideas for setting up an alternative source.

  • Is there a plan for constructing ” A water feature for bees”?
    Thank you for what you are doing!!
    It is very helpful in my quest to raise parisite free,
    healthy, and happy bee’s.God bless,

    • Richard,

      There’s no plan for the one I photographed, but it wouldn’t be hard to make. I would definitely scale it down; this one is for a state university and it is huge.

  • For years I have used a small tub. The tub I use is a concrete mixing tub I bought at Home Depot. I cut up lengths of 2×4 or 2×3 boards that can float freely in the tub when filled with water. Each board I drill a bunch of holes in the boards so that when they float on the water, water can come up through the holes. I run my drip irrigation to the tube to maintain a good water level. The floating wood provides a place for the bees to land and the holes in the wood act like little wells.

  • It’s spring again and the bees will be busy again doing the bee thing. Well, I have a tip that I think you will all like for warm weather and water for your bees. I am one of the owners of nuisance wildlife removal company and we deal with bees a lot. One of our owners is a beekeeper and he uses a material called Cobra Ridge Vent. It kinda looks like a Scotch Bright pad made of a plastic material and, well, Cobra Vent material is like that but on steroids. Just cut a piece to fit the bottom of a shallow pan and add water the bees can’t drown and with all the large nooks and crannies available as the water level goes down the bees will have access to it without drowning.

  • My bees just seem to find my roof gutters. Always a bit of water in there and they go there just fine in the summer. That and to my neighbor’s dripping hose bib.

    I made a bucket feeder by taking a 5 gal bucket from a local big blue box store and drilled small holes through the bucket from the inside into the rim molded onto the outside of the bucket where the handle attaches. There are lots of small pockets all around this rim that I drilled into (but not through). Then I filled it with water, put on the lid, and flipped it over like a sugar feeder.

    The water flowed into the small pockets and once the bucket drew a vacuum it worked much like a quart jar with sugar water and a few holes in the lid. But now I had a water trough that ringed the whole bucket. Plenty of room for the bees to share. The bees liked it and so did my neighbors.

    I later as an experiment I tried it with some actual sugar water as an open feeder. It got mobbed. Not sure I like open feeding but this was a solution that kept bees from drowning.

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