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.



Xylem Filter: Simple low tech water filter using a pine branch

A study published from the University of Singapore has found a way to use a vinyl tube, hose clamp and peel pine branch to effectively filter out bacteria and viruses from drinking water. Also of note is that the study is published to be read freely by all. Most of my readers know by now my hatred of scientific journals that publish studies funded by taxpayer money, but require payment to view the results.

Trees transport water in the xylem (aka sapwood) from the roots to the rest of the tree. By tightening a vinyl tube using a hose clamp around a section of branch with the bark removed, a watertight seal is made while the porous sapwood filter the water. After all, plants have had millions of years to learn how to remove bubbles in order to transport the water using pressure differentials through the entirely of the organism. The reason softwoods are recommended is that the pores in the xylem are smaller. Surprisingly, this simple filter even captured 20 nm gold particles from the water indicating that viruses are expected to be trapped by the filter. So it should not be a surprise that the filter is effective to 200 nm, the size required to remove bacteria and protozoa.

This is amazing stuff, especially considering the impacts of treating water and distributing it through municipalities. Chlorine treatment is expensive and the piping to distribute chlorinated water corrodes making it both expensive to build as well as maintain. Boiling, distilling and subjecting water to reverse osmosis has a large fuel cost. Membrain systems are prone to clogging, are expensive and require a pump/fuel to force the water through the filter.

Xylem filtration might be a key development in small scale water filtration!


Cattle, Chicks, Garden

Rainwater Collection Series 4: Flow Chart of Flowing Water

To recap the journey water makes on my farm:

Solar distilled water in the atmosphere

Falls as precipitation

Barn roof


Collection Barrels

Pumped up to elevated tank (Via this DC or solar powered pump)

Gravity fed to irrigate plants OR Gravity fed to water animal/fill mobile tanks OR Gravity fed through filters into potable water tank

Cattle, Garden, Side Projects

Rainwater Collection Series 3: Purifying Rain Water for Human Use

The last main hurdle of settling on the property is purifying the rain water that has run off the metal barn roof that has been treated with who-knows-what then stored in petroleum based tanks that my leach additional undesirables. Here is the catch, I don’t want to have to use power whatsoever to purify the water (excepting my DC solar pump).

First of all, I plan to purify water for drinking, bathing, washing dishes, cooking and any other miscellaneous needs. Between all of those uses I will conservatively require about 10 gallons a day of purified water. How can I do this without additional energy use?

The first step is a basic filter to remove debris and extend the life of later components. A simple layer of gravel then sand should do the trick.

Here is the gem: Ceramic. During manufacturing, sawdust and silver is mixed into the ceramic clay. When fired in the kiln, the sawdust combusts leaving behind microscopic channels that allows water to travel through the ceramic while bacteria are too large to fit. Silver impregnation provides a hostile surface for microbial activity. A simple scrub with an abrasive sponge removes the top layer of ceramic and refreshes the filter. I haven’t decided on a specific filter yet, but this one is along the lines of what I am considering.

Lastly, a replaceable and homemade activated charcoal filter will remove any chemicals that have leeched into the water on its journey to my farm. With the filter medium available in various quantities, it will be simple to incorporate the homemade and changeable filter into my design.

The last piece of the puzzle is a storage tank. I would prefer a non-petroleum based tank to store the fresh water. Preferable stainless steel and something that could tolerate a bit of pressure when pumping the water out. Does this ring any bells with anyone? If I can legally find a 15.5 gallon half barrel beer keg to use, I will remove the spear and add my own fittings. FYI, most beer kegs including the ones for sale on craigslist are property of the beer distributor who issued the keg when it was full of beer. Any you come across second-hand are technically stolen unless the seller can prove otherwise. Even though I personally view the legal requirement to use a distributor is right up there with cartels and acts a barrier to entry for smaller guys, I’ll still find a keg through legal avenues. Do whatever aligns with your ethics!

Regular water testing will ensure my system is safe and continues to be s0 as it ages.

Cattle, Garden

Rainwater Collection Series 2: Rain Water Collection Barrels

With the exhaustive calculations for gutter and downspout planning complete, the next hurdle is for containers to collect rainwater. Craigslist to the rescue!

While I could pick up the typical blue 55 gallon plastic drums for around $40 each, I could spend double that for the roughly-cubic 300 gallon containers in the metal mesh. I plan to order at least 5: 1 for each of the 4 barn downspouts and one for the hayloft of the barn. Since the time of writing the draft initially, I have purchased 4 300 gallon tanks which you can read about here.

Why one in the hayloft? I plan to utilize a DC solar powered pump to push the water from the rain collection tanks up into the hayloft in order to gravity feed most paddocks as well as the fruit and vegetable garden. Ideally I would put a tank in the top of the unused silo to gravity feed the entire property, but that my be an engineering feat beyond my ability.

I also want a sixth barrel of equal or lesser size to mount on a trailer in order to more-easily water the furthest paddocks when animals are present.

Cattle, Garden

Rainwater Collection Series 1: Gutters for Barn

WARNING: This post gets dense!

Rainwater collection is another vital aspect of my farm operation. While a well is drilled, pumped and plumbed, I would prefer to save its operation for emergencies. I will be designing a system that uses as little energy as possible.

An aspect of large initial investment will be to instal gutters on the barn. Its 60 foot by 80 foot pitched roof serves as a perfect mechanism to harvest solar distilled water, aka precipitation. I want to do my own legwork in designing a system before I contact installers for quotes. has available a resource in this PDF Proper Gutter and Downspout Sizing.

An important piece of data to acquire is the rainfall intensity over a 5 minute period for 10 year and 100 year rainfall events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a tool that allows you to retrieve data for a specific location either visually by panning and zooming in a map or by inputting coordinates.

Following the sample calculations found on page 6 of the Gutter Supply publication using my barn and location, the process is as follows:

Total roof area in two dimensions is 80 ft *60 ft = 4800 square feet

Roof pitch is vertical rise/horizontal distance from start to end of rise is 15 feet vertical over 30 ft horizontal * 12 inches/foot = 6 inches per foot (on my barn)

According to Table 1-1 in the Gutter Supply publication, the constant for my roof pitch adjustment = 1.10

Therefore roof area adjusted for pitch is 4800 square foot * 1.1 = 5280 square feet

Number of downspouts desired = 4 (my preference)

Roof Area covered by each downspout is 5280 square feet / 4 downspouts = 1320 square feet per downspout

Because of the poor amount of cities represented in the PDF, I compared my rainfall to a few cities using the NOAA tool. Knoxville had a 5 min rainfall total of .440 inches while my location has .437. Close enough.

Per the terribly formatted Table 1-2 in the PDF, 1 sq inch of gutter can drain 180 square feet of roof area. So 1320 square feet / 180 = 7.333 square inches as a minimum per downspout.

Finally, comparing the figure of 7.33 square inches to the Table 1-3 in the PDF shows that 4 inches of any shape gutters would perform adequately in a 10 year rain event.

Following the final 3 steps shows that I would need a minimum downspout size of 10.15 square inches in a 100 year event at .690 rainfall intensity. 4″ gutters would still serve in every shape except rectangular corrugated.


Wow Bravo if you stuck through that. None of the other posts in this series will be this technical!