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How Far Do Honey Bees Travel For Water?

How Far Do Honey Bees Travel For Water?

Honey bees can forage for long periods of time to find nectar and water, but how far do honey bees travel for water and what happens if they can’t find any?

When it comes to water, bees will travel up to five miles for water. It is best for bees to have a closer source of water so that they do not need to wear themselves out for a drink. Beekeepers can create a water source near the hive to conserve the bee’s energy for other tasks- like making honey! Ideally, a bee would have access to water within a mile from their hive, but closer is better.

Bees are fascinating creatures- keep reading to learn more!

Healthy Honey Bees

Why force the bees in your apiary to travel a long distance for water- that will wear them out! Plus, you want them to conserve their energy for foraging and collecting nectar to make honey. When bees work harder, they will die sooner- it is that simple.

You could be shortening your bees’ lives by failing to provide them with an alternative water source closer to the hive.

By offering the bees water, either in a fountain, birdbath, or bucket, you are helping the bees stay healthy; healthy bees make for a strong colony, that is able to produce plenty of honey, build honeycomb, and defend themselves effectively against potential predators.  

It has been estimated that a healthy adult honey bee can fly at a rate of up to 20 mph when leaving the hive to forage.

As the bee becomes laden with nectar, pollen, and more rewards, the rate that the bee flies drops to around 10 mph. Bees also bring water back when they return to the hive – making it easier and a much shorter distance for the bee. Create a clever water source that can sustain the hives in your apiary.

Water for Bees

If there is no water source within a five-mile radius, bees can die. They can travel up to five miles, if they must, to obtain water- but this takes a lot out of the bee. They won’t abandon their hive to stay closer to the water- so what can you do?

The best thing that you can do is to provide bees with a closer, alternative water source. It doesn’t take much– and it doesn’t require any maintenance to speak of. Providing a water source closer to the hive frees up the bee for more important tasks and chores, including making honey.

Choose a location that is near the hive- better yet, when setting up your apiary, position it near a natural body of water. If this is not the current configuration, then create a new water source for the bees. They are quick to adapt and use a water source that is convenient for them to reach.

A swarm of bees on honeycomb

Leading Bees to Water

So, after you set up your water source, you may not notice any bees taking a drink. How can you attract them to the water feature?

There are a few ways- remember, bees require a lot of water- at least their own body weight daily- and when you figure out how many bees live in a hive, it amounts to a couple of gallons each and every day.

Do the bees have a water source nearby? You can help by providing clean, safe water close to the hive:

  • Offer bees a place to sit while they drink from your water source. This could be something that floats in the water or some marbles or stones that protrude through the water’s surface. You don’t want the tiny bees to drown!
  • If you are trying to deter your bees from their current water source to come to yours, make it worth their while by adding something tasty to the water, like some sugar. Bees also enjoy the water with a small amount of salt in it- but more on that later!
  • Curb bees from visiting area swimming pools by providing a more appealing water source nearby. It is not good for bees to drink chlorinated water- and swimmers do not typically enjoy bees hanging around the pool. You can also deter bees from pools by taking out any toys or objects that the bees might use to sit or stand when drinking, too.

Discouraging bees from visiting swimming pools is the kind thing to do- as it also reduces the risk of the bee drowning as pool water is not an ideal source for these small, winged insects.

Salty or Sweet?

So, you already know that bees enjoy sweet treats- after all, they love honey! Some beekeepers provide sweetened sugar water to bees, particularly during times when food supplies and honey reserves are low. Did you know that these tiny pollinators also like saltwater? It’s true!

Provide a source of saltwater for your hives, but it must be very diluted to be safe. Use regular table salt and tap or bottled water. If you put water on a saucer or bucket, add a floating scrap of Styrofoam, to provide a restful place for bees to sit when drinking. This also helps prevent the bees from drowning accidentally.

While too much salt is not good for bees, a bit of saltwater can help provide nutrients that bees need. Plus, they enjoy it! It is not uncommon to see bees drinking from saltwater bodies or water- or even saltwater pools.

Just like other species, bees require water to live. If you tend hives or know of a hive nearby, set up a makeshift water source for bees to save them the time and energy that it could take to locate and obtain water.

Furthermore, this ensures the water is not polluted or contaminated with toxins that could harm the little pollinator- a simple bucket of tap water will do and save the bees a lot of effort that is better spent making honey!