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Garden, Home and Garden

How To Make A Bee Watering Station In Seconds

Provide water for bees, butterflies and other pollinators with this easy guide on how to make a safe bee watering and drinking station in seconds, using items you already have in your garden.

We can help the bees by planting bee-friendly plants and stopping using bee-harming pesticides in our gardens. We can also support campaigns that call for bans on bee-harming pesticides in industrial agriculture.

Whilst that may seem like enough, there’s actually more that we can do to help bees and other pollinators, especially in periods of hot weather. We can provide bees with safe sources of drinking water. And the good news is that it is incredibly easy and low maintenance to help our fuzzy friends.

Wait, Bees Drink Water?

Bee-lieve it or not, bees do drink water. Like the majority of creatures on the planet, bees, butterflies and other pollinators need water to survive.

As well as requiring water to drink, water is of crucial importance to bees when it comes to hive health. In summer, bees use water to cool their hives. Here, bees cleverly spread water that they’ve collected along the edges of the beeswax structure of cells where the queen bee lays her eggs. The bees then fan the area with their wings. This creates air currents that evaporate the water, cooling the hive to the right temperature. It’s a pretty impressive natural air conditioning system, that allows the baby bees to survive even on the hottest of days.

However, bees don’t just need water in summer. Particularly in winter, bees use water to dissolve crystallised honey and also thin honey that has become too thick and viscous.

It’s safe to say that water is of great importance to bees. The problem is that due to habitat loss, finding a continuous source of shallow water can be difficult for bees and other pollinators. And due to increased pesticide usage, finding water that is free of pesticides makes a difficult situation even more challenging.

How To Make A Bee Watering Station That’s Safe For All Pollinators

bee drinking water from a bee watering station.

It couldn’t be easier to make a bee watering station, that all pollinators, including butterflies and wasps, can drink from. Whilst water can pose a drowning risk to bees, this method is safe for all pollinators and eliminates the risk of drowning.

You Will Need

  • A shallow dish. There’s no need to buy anything new. You could use an old plate, tray, a plant pot saucer, or even an old frisbee. Any shallow container will do, as long as it doesn’t have any drainage holes in it.
  • Small pebbles, rocks or stones. You can gather these from your garden or buy a small bag of pebbles from your local garden centre. Alternatively, glass pebbles, corks, and sticks can also be used.
  • Fresh water from the tap or rainwater.

Directions

  • First, find a shady spot in your garden to place your bee watering station. I would recommend avoiding an area that receives direct sunlight. This is because on very hot days the water will heat up quickly and get too warm.
  • If you suspect your dish and/or stones may have been exposed to pesticides then first give them a wash in warm soapy water, before rinsing with clean water and then drying.
  • Next, fill your dish with pebbles and stones.
  • Then fill the dish or tray with water, ensuring that the water line is a little shallower than the stones. Bees and other pollinators need to be able to rest on the stones whilst drinking. Keeping the water line shallower than the stones also reduces the risk of pollinators drowning.
  • Finally, wait for bees and butterflies to find your water source.

Important Tips To Remember When Making Your Bee Watering Station

A bee drinking water from a safe watering station - no drowning risk.

Be Patient

It will take bees and other pollinators a little time to find your station. This is because bees navigate largely by their sense of smell. Fresh water doesn’t have much of a smell to it. The longer your water sits there, the dirtier it gets. The dirtier it is, the more discoverable it is to bees.

Don’t Forget To Refill Your Bee Watering Station

Once bees and other pollinators find a reliable water source, they will return regularly.

On hot days, and in periods where there has been very little rain, the water will evaporate quickly. Be sure to keep an eye on your dish and top it up with water when necessary, so that you maintain a constant water source for the bees.

Don’t Fill Your Station With Honey Or Sugar

Despite what you may have heard on social media, never add sugar or honey to your bee watering station. Honey can be dangerous to pollinators – a lot of our honey is imported and may not always be right for native British bees. Honey from other hives can also spread fatal diseases, such as Foulbrood, amongst bee populations.

Meanwhile, leaving sugar water in your garden fills bees up with empty calories. This can prevent the bees from gathering precious pollen, and therefore could be detrimental to their health. It’s also bad for plants, as this would prevent bees from pollinating our plants. Instead, keep the sugar for bee-related emergencies – although do read my guide on reviving tired bees correctly to make sure you are helping, not hindering bees.

Don’t Keep It Too Clean

Unlike bird feeders and bird baths, which have to be kept clean to avoid the spread of disease, bee drinking stations don’t have to be kept clean.

Bees drink water from ditches, muddy puddles, and other dirty sources of water. Whilst we wouldn’t dream of drinking dirty water, for bees, these smelly and slimy water sources contain a wide range of nutrients that aren’t always gained from pollen and nectar. And as I mentioned before, bees largely navigate by smell, so the water needs to be a little bit dirty for bees to consider your water as a good source of drinking water!

So, don’t worry too much if your drinking station starts to look a bit green and slimy, or smells a bit off – the bees will love it. The only time you should clean it up a bit is if you start noticing casualties near your station, or if someone has used pesticides nearby.

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Honeybee drinking water from bee drinking station, with blue text box that reads how to make a bee watering station in seconds.
Garden, Home and Garden

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

Put that spade and pair of secateurs down! Before you do any weeding at all, have a read about the beneficial weeds you want in your garden that help the environment, and help support wildlife. You can even eat some of them too.

It’s time we changed how we look at gardening. With the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) no longer classing slugs and snails as pests – instead urging people to consider these creatures as an important part of the garden ecosystem – it’s high time we did the same with weeds.

It was Ian Emberson who wrote the words “a weed is a flower in the wrong place, a flower is a weed in the right place”. Instead of waging war on the flowers in the wrong place, let’s change how we look at them. Many weeds after all are beneficial to the environment, our gardens, and to wildlife. And surprisingly, many weeds are edible too.

The Beneficial Weeds You Want In Your Garden

A garden planter with a blue text box that says the beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

In the UK, our collective private gardens cover an area of land that is bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined. That’s a huge area and means our gardens have great potential to provide vital space for wildlife.

We can start to make positive changes, just by changing how we view weeds.

Here are just some of the beneficial weeds you want in your garden, that all help to support our native wildlife. Many of these weeds are also beneficial when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables, and many are also edible. Of course, do consult a book on foraging or an app if you have any doubts about identifying edible types of weeds before you eat them.

Nettles

patch of nettles

Top of the list is nettles. Nettles are an amazing beneficial weed because these stinging plants support an array of wildlife. Butterflies, such as the Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell, and moths lay their eggs on nettles. Meanwhile caterpillars and aphids and other insects all eat nettles. In fact, nettles can support over 40 types of insects.

However, it’s not just insects that benefit from the presence of nettles. A host of other wildlife is attracted to nettles because they like to eat the insects that gorge on nettles. Ladybirds, parasitic wasps, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, shrews, and birds such as blue tits, all visit to feast on these insects and aphids. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy!

In the autumn, nettles provide a further feast. Small birds, including the sparrow, chaffinch, and bullfinch come to feast on the seeds which each nettle plant produces.

Companion Planting With Nettles

If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then nettles make for great companion plants. This is because growing clumps of nettles between crops help to attract beneficial predators, such as ladybirds. These will help to control pests naturally, without the use of harmful pesticides.

Eating Nettles

You can also eat nettles. In spring you can make delicious wild nettle pesto with the tips of the spring shoots. A word of warning though – don’t pick nettle leaves after they have started flowering – usually around late May. Once nettles start flowering, a chemical in the leaves can upset your urinary tract.  Consider nettles a springtime treat, and for the rest of the year leave them for wildlife to enjoy.

Sorrel As A Beneficial Weed

Sorrel plant

You might class sorrel as an annoyance that pops up on your lawn, but it’s actually a pretty beneficial weed to have in your garden.

Sorrel is beloved by slugs, snails and aphids, and some species of butterfly and moth larvae also feed on the leaves too. This in turn attracts other wildlife, which then eat these creatures.

Companion Planting With Sorrel

Sorrel also makes a great companion plant when growing strawberries, cabbages or tomatoes. This simple but clever technique works by creating a diversion and drawing pests away from the main fruit and vegetable plants you are trying to protect.

Eating Sorrel

Most types of sorrel are also edible. Young sorrel leaves can be used as a herb, or as a salad leaf. Sorrel has a very fresh and zingy flavour, that is reminiscent of that of the zest of a lemon. This flavour really lifts a dish naturally. Because of this, sorrel has become one of my favourite things to grow in my garden. Eat the leaves when they are young though – I find that the larger they get, the leaves take on more of a woody texture which isn’t so tasty.

With so many beneficial properties, I promise, you’ll soon view sorrel as a plant, rather than a weed.

Dandelions

Dandelions - beneficial weeds you want in your garden.

Dandelions have long been a scourge of gardeners. Those long taproots that are difficult to remove from the ground mean that dandelions just keep popping up when you don’t want them. However, dandelions do make for an incredibly beneficial weed.

Dandelions provide food to many different pollinators. This includes bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and some species of moths and beetles. As one of the first plants to flower in spring, and the last to flower in autumn, dandelions are incredibly important to our pollinators. They are particularly important in early spring when some of these species emerge hungry from hibernation.

Other species in turn eat these insects, whilst later on in the year, birds such as goldfinches and house sparrows munch the dandelion seeds.

Companion Planting With Dandelions

Whilst you may think you don’t want dandelions growing in your vegetable garden, then I encourage you to think again. Far from being just weeds, dandelions make a fantastic beneficial companion plant to have in your garden.

As well as attracting pollinating insects to your vegetable patch, the dandelion’s long taproots help to break apart hard soils. These roots are also said to bring up nutrients from deep down in the soil to the surface. This helps to nourish other plants growing in close proximity.

Interestingly, dandelions also release ethylene gas. If grown near fruit or tomatoes, this gas that they give off can help speed up the ripening process.

Eating Dandelions

It’s a little know fact that dandelions are edible. The petals can be eaten raw in salads, or you can boil them in sugar to make dandelion syrup – also known as vegan honey. The leaves again can be eaten raw in salads or boiled to be eaten as a substitute for spinach. Some people even bake the roots and ground that down to use as a coffee substitute.

Wild Carrot As A Beneficial Weed

wild carrot plant

Whilst wild carrot has historically been classed as a weed, this beautiful plant is beneficial to a host of insects, such as bees, beetles and hoverflies. Its ferny foliage and white flowers mean it looks great growing in your garden borders too.

Companion Planting With Wild Carrot

Planting wild carrots helps to attract hoverflies to your garden. Hoverflies are a great garden guest to have, as they eat the aphids that like to feast on your prize vegetables. Hoverflies have short tongues so they need accessible flowers where they can drink nectar. Wild carrot is an accessible flower for hoverflies, so you can naturally reduce your aphid populations without resorting to pesticides.

Eating Wild Carrot

Whilst the young roots of wild carrots are edible, as well as the flowers, I prefer to give them a wide berth. This is because wild carrot is very similar in appearance to other members of the same family, such as the highly poisonous hemlock plant and the poisonous hemlock water-dropwort plant. Personally, I would reserve wild carrot as a beneficial weed for the wildlife to enjoy.

So let’s put down the weedkiller, put down that spade, and embrace the weeds to make your garden an insect and animal friendly oasis. Of course, you don’t have to turn your whole garden over to weeds – simply allowing one small patch or a couple of tubs to grow wild can make a huge difference to our native wildlife. If you are worried about being overrun by dandelions, simply cut the flower heads off before they go to seed.