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My water tank is being overrun by honeybees

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

I live in the mohave desert, and far from any known water source for bees besides the 50 gallon water tank I keep filled for watering my plants. I don't mind sharing with them, and so far the only sting I've received was from trying to rescue a drowning bee(ungrateful little monster!) I had two questions...how far from the hive will they travel for water, and is there any way to give them a more attractive source?
In these pics you see a watering can that I stuck a stick into that they really like to use to get down to the water I put in there thinking they might prefer that...but there are so many they still use the tank. And the screen in the tank is there to keep the drowning down to a minimum. A those black dots in the can pic are bees!

Thumbnail by Mountaindweller Thumbnail by Mountaindweller
Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

When they are getting nectar they fly as much as 2 miles, but beyond that the energy they collect from the nectar is used up in the flight to and from the hive.
However, they might fly farther for water. I am not sure, though.

They tend not to want to use water that is too close to the hive.

Adding floating things to the water tank will help the bees. Something as simple as a short piece of lumber is enough. You might also find butterflies and birds using it! The lumber will float for a long time, but may eventually get waterlogged and sink.
If you want to, your could use a long piece of lumber (perhaps a 2 x 4) that will reach the bottom of the tank. Then no matter how full or empty there is a path, and even fully water logged it cannot sink, since it is already touching the bottom.

If you want to rescue a bee in the water use something other than your hand to scoop her up. A leaf, a stick... A bee that has been swimming around in the water is sort of desperate. She cannot fly to escape an enemy, and does not know that you are helping.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

If they will fly two miles is it possible that bees from several hives come here? Are they territorial? And can you tell me why they don't like water close to the hive?
Thanks, Julia

Arcade, NY(Zone 5a)

You are doing something wrong if you have bees coming to your water tank. Do you have a cover on your tank. if you cant get rid of them. put your tank in a storage shed. I have 5 hives on my land. I have water barrels all over the place. not one bee comes to them.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Healthy honeybees do not poop in their hive. When honeybees leave the hive they defecate. If they have any diseases in their intestines, the feces can contain the spores of that disease. These can land in local water sources, and other bees drinking that water can catch those few diseases that are passed on that way.
So bees will not drink from sources really close to the hive.

Bees are not territorial in that sense. They do not claim space or water sources, or nectar or pollen. You sure could have bees from all over visiting your water tank.
Once they leave the area of the hive they are very peaceful. They will defend the hive, and the close surroundings. But some bees are more aggressive about this than others. The European Honeybees that are most popular for beekeeping are very peaceful. If you went right up to the hive, they would just fly around you. If you started scratching or bumping the hive they would probably defend it. It also depends what is near the hive. Bears and skunks are common predators of honeybees, so bees tend to be more aggressive against hairy dark things. (one reason beekeepers wear smooth white coveralls)
One of the main problems with the Africanized honeybees is their very strong defense system. They alert on the slightest thing, many bees join to defend the colony, then they chase the intruder for a long way.

Agree with Ray:
COVER THAT TANK! In my area uncovered water like that breeds mosquitoes. Not sure if you have mosquitoes in the Mojave, though.

If you want to attract birds, then have a fountain or something with moving water. Keep the water fresh, moving, and replace it often. Drain and scrub the birdbath.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

These are definitely peaceful bees, thank goodness. Thanks for all the great info. I'll probably drain the tank and just fill buckets as I need them.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

What am I missing here? Why can't Mountaindweller have a water tank if she wants? And if it's being visited by bees, seems as if they need her water.

There ARE areas of the country, such as my Pacific Northwest, that don't have any mosquitoes to speak of.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

Lol, thanks summerkid :>)
Well, the bees and I have come to an understanding- I leave that tank to them and they have absolutely no interest in the dog or bird bowls, I get my buckets of water for watering plants (which was the original purpose of that tank, since I have to haul water from a local well) and they never sting me, and if I see one of them doing the backstroke I fish them out. I need them in my garden, they need my water, it all works out.

North Coast, Dominican Republic

I love bees, thanks for not killing them or not allowing them to drink the water. =)

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

I think my first post must have been badly written. My problem was not that I didn't want the bees around, only that I didn't want them to drown. I have learned a lot since that first post. I now have a container that I have filled with rocks, and water, so the bees don't have to cling to the vertical wall of the container. They seem to mark their preferred water source. I have three different sized tanks I hold water in, and they use only one of them. But now I will leave them all empty until they have imprinted in the one with rocks, and that should stop the drowning.

North Coast, Dominican Republic


That's awesome that you've gone through so much so these little guys won't drown. Ever thought of farming bees for some natural honey?




Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

That's on the list:>) I want to get the garden going well first, then build a very basic hive and hope for a wild swarm to find it. Then I'll wait for a cold spell during the winter and snag a little bit. I can't imagine going the whole white suit path. Here in the mohave desert there's not a lot too provide pollen all year, so it's very important to have a perrenial planting before I try to 'keep' bees.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Mountain, I am ensconced in a beach house on the very lush Oregon coast, reading "Wild," the tale of an unmoored young woman inexpertly hiking the spine of the West, starting out in the Mojave (Tejachupi Pass?). Quite the study in contrasts.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

I'm about 200 miles due east up in the 'thumb' of Arizona. (Had to look up that pass) But I know what you mean about extremes. Joshua trees and huge yuccas and catclaw acacia are my 'trees' here, and I've learned more about the growth habits of cholla then I ever wanted to.
I'm thinking you are getting some cold wet weather out there today, it's due here tomorrow, with 1-3 more inches of snow. The temps here have been 23 degrees the last two nights, and not over 34 yesterday and Wednesday. Compare that to the 110 of last July!
No bees now, of course. I'll be glad to see them back next spring.

This message was edited Dec 6, 2013 8:46 PM

Thumbnail by Mountaindweller
Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Just got home from a few nights on the beach 2 towns over. MY PIPES IS FROZE!

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

Darn that global warming!! 😝 sorry to hear that, though. No water is no fun! And if it can freeze pipes on the beach, I'm bringing in more firewood!

Lostwithiel, United Kingdom

I don't know how cold it gets where you are, but I wouldn't disturb them when it's cold as it could kill them, or at least impair their survival during the cold months - they keep the inside of the hive at a certain temperature and opening the hive allows the heat to escape, meaning they have to use up more stores and energy to get it back up to temperature, which could be the difference between them starving to death or not. Obviously I'm working from a temperate zone bias, as in the tropics the cold wont be a problem.
I'd be fascinated to know what plants you're planning on putting in - bit of a plant geek and by the sounds of it you have a very specific environment, quite different to mild England.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

And I'm hoping to make it look a tiny bit like England! Not sure what kind of trees can handle the temp extremes yet. Since we haul water here by the tankful I need things that can handle less water too. But in my researching it seems that plants from the hotter Mediterranean areas should work. Geraniums and marigolds grew wonderfully last summer, but this cold has probably finished them.
Thanks for the warning on the bees. It doesn't stay cold for more than a couple weeks, I'm told, so maybe they don't even store up that much honey? I'll have to learn as I go. I think you'd enjoy the southwest forum here at Dave's, we talk about hot climate plants and critters.

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

Well, here's a bit of humor for all the bee lovers out there. I still don't have a hive of my own, and I still have no idea whether these visiting bees are from a wild colony or somebody's property, but I've grown quite attached to the little visitors. I can't walk past the tank without rescueing any swimmers. And I recently discovered that often they aren't drowned so much as freezing to death in the very cold water. Now you must picture a little tiny honeybee, legs curled up to its chest, wings soaked and sticking to whatever surface I've moved it to ( carefully, with a stick, they still try to sting!) and If you can, try to imagine my warm finger resting on the little bee body until I see more activity. I really did bring one back to movable temps that way. But after that I have just transferred them to the top shelf of my little cheapy plastic 'greenhouse', the kind that bring to mind a porta-potty. Inside there they quickly warm up and fly away. I've been saving several a day now.
And I made this styrofoam cover, which is very ugly, but floats nicely and gives them an 'out' if they don't get hypothermia too soon. It might even keep the water temps up, who knows?
So, yes, life without television is not for the weak, and maybe this desert sun is stronger than I thought. But I'm pretty sure I'm harmless, especially to the bees! And don't even get me started about the dog mansion I built for the shepherd and boxer!

Thumbnail by Mountaindweller
Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

I love you, Mountaindweller!

Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

:-P

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