feeding bees

An ancient marine tea service for thirsty bees

Tim Gabbert, a second year beekeeper from Williamsburg, Virginia, noticed honey bees congregating at one of his birdbaths and wondered how to keep the bees from drowning. His solution? Ancient seashells perforated with worm holes. He writes:

I live in area rich with ancient ocean sea shells that are constantly being pulled from the cliffs of the rivers by frequent storms. These shells, being riddled with marine worm holes, looked to be the perfect bee watering device. So I placed a few large scallop shells in the bird baths. The bees adapted quickly to them. Sometimes as many as 50 bees will be sitting on these shells casually sipping water that is drawn up and available in the tiny marine worm cavities.

Tim explains that both the James River and the York River are nearby. He says they are constantly fossil hunting on the cliff banks of these rivers because the banks were once the ocean floor, only 10,000 years ago. Shells, he says, are everywhere.

To me, this is a perfect solution. I love the juxtaposition of the old with the new, and of the sea and the land. Nature, in its various forms, serving nature is a beautiful sight. Plus there are added benefits. Tim says, “The bees are extremely happy with this set up. I sit by them, enjoy a glass of wine, and listen to their sounds as they come and go!”

Thanks, Tim, for sharing a clever idea.

Honey Bee Suite

A seashell waterer for thirsty bees made of ancient seashells.

The ancient shells pulled from a cliff contain worm borings that soak up the water and make a safe watering hole for thirsty bees. © Tim Gabbert.







  • Awesome and beautiful idea. Over the years I’ve collected quite a few of these shells . . . what an incredible way to show them off, and help my little ladies at the same time. ??

  • I use several different things and a bird bath is one of the things I use to water the bees. I put rocks in mine they make out great.

  • I have also seen people use small sponges, but as with anything you need to constantly keep the water supply adequate.

  • I use rocks that stick out of the water. The rocks offer a safe place for the bees and the birds can still bathe and drink as well.

  • I collect wine corks as flotation devices (without worry of rot). We have a lot of wineries here in the hill country & I have also frequented the Master Gardeners (wine connoisseurs frequent there) & found baggies full of wine corks for sale at local resale/thrift shops. If you’re really itty gritty about it, you can string them together on one line to keep them together or weighted (if it’s super duper windy). When I put requests out for bee life rafts AKA wine corks people don’t mind drinking more wine to help out! both parties are happy! 🙂

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