How to set up a water source for bees

bee waterer

Bees are considered a keystone species, meaning every other species within their ecosystem depends on them for survival. We rely on bees for the food we eat, the flowers we enjoy and the overall health of our ecosystems. Put simply, bees are pretty important.

Unfortunately, bee populations have been declining due to habitat loss, invasive species, pesticides, diseases, parasites and climate change. This is bad news for ecosystems all over the world. It’s bad news in the present and implies a bleak outlook for the future if things don’t change.

Providing a water source

There are a million little things we can do to help bee populations bounce back. Providing a clean, reliable water source is just one way to help.

Like virtually every other species on the planet, bees need water to survive. They use it to make honey and keep their hive cool. However, water is not always easy to find.

In urban and suburban areas where bees are already combating other challenges created by habitat loss, finding a good source of water can be especially difficult. Bees need shallow water sources that are free of pesticides and continuously provide water.

A safe bee waterer

A safe bee waterer will provide visitors with a safe place to stand while they drink. Bees are small and drown easily, so using a shallow dish filled with rocks or marbles is ideal. Just keep the water line shallower than the rocks, so the bees have a place to land.

It’s equally important to make sure the dish of water you’re putting out for thirsty bees hasn’t been contaminated with pesticides. Be sure to clean the dish and filler rocks before adding water and leaving it out.

Lastly, you want to make sure your bee waterer always has water. Bees are creatures of habit and once they find a reliable water source they will return again and again. If you forget to fill your waterer a couple of days in a row, the bees who’ve become accustomed to collecting water from your dish may have trouble finding another source.

How to set up a water source for bees

What you need:

  • Rocks
  • A shallow dish
  • Water


  1. Rinse rocks and dish. As mentioned above, you want to ensure your bee waterer is free of pesticides and other harmful substances before putting it out for bees. Wash your rocks and dish with vinegar or a mild soap. Then, rinse it well.
  2. Prepare dish. Arrange your rocks and fill your dish with enough water to partially, but not completely, cover them. Leave the tops of the rocks exposed to dry out, so that visiting bees can stand on them.
  3. Find a place for your bee waterer. If you’ve noticed bees in your yard or garden, place the bowl near where you’ve observed the most activity. If you haven’t noticed many bees in your yard, put the bowl in a shaded location near a food source, like flowers.
  4. Check your waterer regularly. Check the bowl regularly to make sure it has the right amount of water. If it has too much after a heavy rain and the rocks are covered, pour some of the water out. If the water starts running low, add some more.
  5. Let it get dirty. Don’t worry about cleaning the bowl or rocks, unless you start noticing casualties around your waterer. Bees can actually find dirty water sources easier, locating them by smell. They can also benefit from the added nutrients in slimy water.

Related Content



Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.