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Water Source for bees

Information from Anne Bennett - an urban beekeeper from Montreal

The goal is to supply the bees with needed water, but in particular, to prevent them from using "undesirable" water sources (such as the neighbour's hot tub). Thus, the chosen solution must be more attractive to bees than competing water sources. It must also be safe for other wildlife, and must not turn into an uncontrolled mosquito breeding area.

If possible, start supplying water as soon as possible in your
season, before any competing water sources become available, as
bees tend to remain loyal to a source once discovered.

- Make sure that bees can land and walk safely to the water,
preferably by supplying a gradual path from dry to wet conditions,
such as crumpled newspaper, cardboard, sponge, moss, mud, wood,
or another material that wicks water.

- "Dirty" water is most attractive to bees (mud, manure, decaying
organic matter); they also seem to like salt in their water, at
concentrations around 0.5% NaCl (3.3 tsp/gal), though as little
as 1 or 2 tsp/gal may be sufficient.

- Bees can be "conditioned" to a new water source by offering
slightly sugared water, and then gradually removing the sugar once
they are using the source. It can be helpful to add another scent
to the water to help the bees continue to recognize that source;
lemongrass oil or anise would be easy ones, though cheaper
(bleach) and more expensive (synthetic Nasonov pheromone)
scents have been used.

Bees tend to be loyal to sources chosen in early spring, so it's
important to start water feeders as soon as the hive is hive
unwrapped from winter (if applicable!), before the competing water sources become available.

Most important seems to be to have a place for bees to land
and walk without drowning. For this purpose, people have used
floating objects of various sorts, mostly sticks or branches
as well as "platforms", mostly rocks and stones 

It was universally agreed that bees love dirty water: mud, manure,
pond water containing decaying organic matter from aquatic plants...
the stinkier the better.In that vein recommends attracting bees to a
new source by offering slightly sugared water, and then gradually
removing the sugar once they are using the source.


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