How My Garden Grows: Bee Baths

Bee baths were one of the first things I made for my garden years ago. It is a simple project that even young children can help with. The supply list can be scrounged and upcycled, or as fancy as you wish.


What is a bee bath?

It is a shallow and protected water source for the smallest pollinators, and as well butterflies and birds.


Why should I have them?

Bees and other pollinators need a steady source of water, especially in hot weather. If you provide water, they will come! It encourages them to live nearby.


How to:

Shallow basins –

Planter saucers work well. Use heavy-duty plastic (made in the USA) or terra-cotta. Have them at least the size of a dinner plate, up to 16″ across. You want them to be at least an inch deep, or more. Tall sides, versus sloped, will work best.

Rocks, marbles and shiny baubles –

Find rocks of various sizes, scrub well to remove soil. I fill the basins about 3/4 full of rocks. I like the look of adding in glass baubles, the kind used in vases. You can find them cheap at dollar stores, or use marbles.

Make sure all of it is piled up, creating little pools, and crannies. Then find a spot for your bath. I like them near flowers, tucked into an area that gets some shade, like say under the edge of a blueberry bush. We have a bath on each side of the back yard, with 3 near the bee hives. We have 8 total in the backyard, and 2 in the front yard.

I flush them gently every other day in summer (if it gets over 90* out, every day). For best results, do this in the morning, or after the sun starts going down. Otherwise, you may be disturbing the guests, and they don’t like that. It will take a few weeks for the baths to get noticed, but then you will see a steady stream of visitors.

Bigger birds may use it as well. We found Junco birds would set up their nests nearby. They’d push the rocks around, and take baths. Squirrels will actually push out the rocks, but easily enough fixed. I’ve lost a few baubles to crows, but I am Ok with that!

Winter care –

I let them do their own thing once Fall settles in (where it stays in the 50*’s during the day). Once Winter comes on, I let them freeze. When leaves fall, I let them stay on top. It seems to help with insulating the basins. Eventually the saucers will degrade, but you should get 2 to 5 years use. I toss them in recycle once they start leaking.