COLORADO, USA — Putting out a saucer of water for birds and bees is a nice gesture, but did you know that bees can drown if you don’t give them a place to land?
Luckily, you can build a pollinator-friendly water feature in just five minutes, for under $5.
Simply providing a traditional bird bath won’t work for bees and butterflies. Small pollinators can’t balance on the steep edges and reach the surface of the water to take a sip. They need a safe, non-slippery spot from which they can reach the water easily and then fly off. They don’t need a large pool of water—a small “watering hole” will do.
Making a bee waterer
To make your bee watering spot, start with a wide, shallow dish like a platter or pie plate. Don’t use a deep container; pollinators are tiny. An inch or so of water is plenty deep for them. Add some small rocks or marbles to fill the bottom and put some flat stones or similar objects to provide a platform where they can sit or stand while they take a drink.
Location, location, location
Where you place the bee waterer does matter. If you think about the size of a bumblebee in relation to the size of your yard, you’ll see that it’s a big universe. Don’t make them travel far to find water. Place your bee waterer in or near the garden where flowering plants are. If you live in a small space or in an apartment, you can put these by your container garden—pollinators may need to stop for water as they are traveling from habitat to habitat.
Maintenance of the bee watering spot
Keep the water feature clean. Add fresh water daily and clean out dirt or other debris that might fall in, like leaves or flower petals. Remember that standing water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so changing the water daily can help prevent that as well.
Different pollinators have different drinking habits
A bee water feature won’t work for other pollinators. Butterflies prefer a mud hole or shallow puddle—they do something called “puddling” which helps them get minerals from mud puddles. Hummingbirds might enjoy drinking from water in a lava rock. For big larger birds, a traditional bird bath is just fine.
Thank you, Kara Burke with Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, for helping us build a water feature for pollinators. Consumers can visit alcc.com to find a landscape professional in their area and get help with maintaining a healthy, pollinator-friendly landscape.
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