Simple DIY Honeybee Waterer from 2 common items: Cork and bucket

This summer dryness is really affecting the flora and fauna of the farm. My part of the Shenandoah Valley has not had a strong rain since early July. My bees need water like the rest of the plants and animals! Bees need a water source where they won’t drown while drinking. If you are a beekeeper, be a good neighbor and provide your bees with a source of drinking water. Nothing will provoke the wrath of those uneducated about bee behavior quicker than their swimming pools or fountains or birdbaths being constantly full of your bees. I mention uneducated because bees are not aggressive when foraging for resources thus pose little threat unless crushed with bare skin and most people cover their irrational phobias of bees by stating they are allergic when only 1 or 2 people out of 1,000 are actually allergic (Source: USDA). However, those hypothetical neighbors are completely in their rights in wanting to keep bees from congregating in highly trafficked areas.

All that is needed for this project is wine corks and a 5 gallon bucket. Corks are easy to procure even if you don’t drink wine. Restaurants, wine stores, wine tasting events and friends are all potential places that may accumulate wine corks. Mine came from a tent at a wine festival.

Tools required:

None…maybe a wine opener deserves to be included?


  • Bucket (You decide the size that is right for you)
  • Wine corks


  • Put wine corks in bucket
  • Fill bucket with water

Alternative Procedure

  • Fill bucket with water
  • Put wine corks in bucket

I jest but this project is incredibly simple. The corks give the bees a place to land and rest while drinking while the bucket holds enough water for quite some time.

Mosquitos suck. I’m anal about standing water on the farm. A zero tolerance policy is in effect. There is literally not a single drop of exposed water on the farm so last week I went on a 3 hour hunt to find the source of the mosquitoes who were biting me one evening. I finally found two tires I was storing behind the barn (to make cement filled mobile fence posts) that had filled with water. When I set out to write this post, I realized I never heard any justification for the oft advised figure of 1 week as the time to replace water to prevent mosquitos. So I researched myself.

After reading various agricultural and etymological sources, I found that mosquitoes can go from egg to adult in 4-14 days depending on the species and conditions. Thus I will strive to change this water every three or four days!

Armed with only anecdotal evidence as most scientific efforts are focused on more important aspects of honeybees, I can tell you that in my observations and many many others on forums and in beekeeping meetings that honeybees tend to flock to stinky water whether it is stagnant or contains some other odor like chlorine. Thus I recommend adding something smelly like essential oils. Without an emulsifier, the oils will not mix into the water and only serve as an attractant. I would not use this technique to deliver anything meant for varroa treatment like wintergreen, spearmint, thyme, lemongrass, etc.

I do however add a small quantity of salt to the water. Up until recently, the published science has only stated that salt lessens the lifespan of bees. However, any beekeeper that has worked in the summer has noticed the bees landing on their skin only to drink the salty sweat. Pools are notorious for luring bees. Now the science is finding that bees have salt taste receptors on their feet and have found this is the reason they are attracted to chlorine salts in pools as well as the newer saltwater pools. Furthermore, they don’t have to even land near the water; those taste receptors can sense it in the air (source: Even more, beekeeping publications like Ross Conrad’s article on Bee Tea in Bee Culture (August 2010) are claiming boosted immune systems of bees from mineral salt. The science has yet to catch up to substantiate these claims.

Beekeeping, like most other fields of agriculture, is incredibly slow to adapt and change. Beekeeping has seen little technological advancement since the advent of the Langstroth hive in 1850. So my decision is to try to stay ahead of the curve in this instance and add 2 teaspoons of salt per gallon to my feeding water.