CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Drought and Bees


By CSU Horticulture Agent, Linda Langelo

Photo credit: Svarun

How are you surviving in these 100-degree days?  I am hot.  How about you?  Have you ever thought about how the bees are doing in this drought and heat?

Drought is very stressful on bees as it is with all other living beings.  Without water, life ceases to exist.   Bees need water daily.  Bees do not store water. They need it for themselves and for the hive.

Here are a few reasons bees require water daily:

  1.   Water is essential for temperature and humidity control.  The bees bring water to the hive for the young bees developing in the brood.  The evaporative cooling in the hive keeps the temperatures down.  The nest temperature is best kept around 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Food for the brood is watered down to 70% water and honey pollen.  The worker bees control the humidity of the hive. 
  2. Water is essential for utilized stored food.  Bees use the water to dilute the food because the glucose content may be too high.
     3. Water is essential for the nurse bee who needs water for their hypopharyngeal                   glands can produce jelly for the larvae.
    4.  Water is essential for digestion. 

Just how much water does a colony require in a day?  According to Bees for Development, on hot days bees may collect several gallons of water every day. One bee can make up to 50 trips a day to collect 25mg of water.  That sounds like a lot of work for a worker bee!

How do the bees find a nearby source of water?  Since bees control the humidity of the hive, they are good at finding sources of water by the higher humidity in the air which is above a water source.  Shallow sources of water may be missed because they do not increase the humidity in the air as much as does a deeper source of water.  Bees can drown in deeper sources of water.  Providing a way for them to reach the water safely without drowning is key.

Bees are also sensitive to odors.  So, if you are providing a source of water, make sure it is free of chemicals. 

How can you help provide water for the bees? 

1)Get a container that is shallow and wide.  Put stones and/or twigs in the water for bees to rest on or the bees will drown. 

2)Be sure to change and/or add water daily. 

3)Place the container close to the hive. 

If you have a birdbath, bees can land on the edge and drink water safely as shown in the photo below along with the other photos of watering holes for bees:

     Photo credit: Nicolefoto/iStockphoto – Science News for Students


                 Photo credit: Christine Casey,  UC Davis The Bee Gardener, Bees on a piece of cork

     Photo credit: Christine Casey, UC Davis, The Bee Gardener


  1. So my bird bath is benefiting not just the birds...bees too. Good to know.

    1. Yes--If you put in little stones- it's easier for them to land- if they are glass (sparkly) even better!

  2. Bees frequent our birdbath quite often but I never knew why. Thank you for sharing! Great job.