The following are questions that have been around as long as beekeepers, neighbours and pools themselves.
How do I keep my bees out of my neighbours pool?
How do I keep my neighbours bees out of my pool?
This is a frustrating situation for both parties. On one side you have a beekeeper that feels entitled to house bees on his property. On the other side of the fence, there is a pool owner who wants to enjoy their expensive hole in the ground.
While there isn’t always a perfect solution, quite often a resolution can be found if you take the time to understand what the bees are up to.
Water sources for bees
In essence, what both parties need is for the bees to find an alternative water source. To figure out how to achieve this, we need to assess what bees look for in a water source.
Firstly, the bees need somewhere to stand while they drink. Despite their biblical contribution to our environment, bees cannot walk on water. They can sort of swim for a little while, but many bees drown when they find themselves in open water sources. For this reason bees prefer water in which they can stand, or that has a drinking platform for them. In the wild this may be a shallow puddle or the damp banks of a river. A pool cover often makes a perfect area for bees to stand while they slurp up the water. If we are to entice them away from these artificial drinking stations, we need to make something equally appealing for them.
Secondly, location seems to be an important factor for bees in their search for water. For some reason bees prefer their water source to be a bit of a distance from their hive. Many people will place a water source right in front of the hive, only to find that the bees do not use this. It seems odd, but bees really do not like water that is within about 10 metres of their hive. Perhaps this is a hygiene reason? Perhaps bees don’t use it because they have trouble vectoring their hive mates to the water source, as it is too close for an effective waggle dance. We don’t actually know for a fact. What we do know is that ideal water sources will be placed around 12 to 30 metres from the hive.
Lastly, flavour. Bees seem to like water with nutrients. Saltwater pools can be particularly attractive to bees for this reason due to the variety of nutrients they provide. In the wild, bees will often be observed drinking water from moist soil. These moisture sources can provide the bees with the nutrients they crave, so should be replicated when attempting to lure bees to your water source, and away from where they are not wanted.
For your best bet at luring bees to drink elsewhere:
– Place a water source between 10 and 30 metres from the hive.
– Drop some floating objects in the water such as old thongs, foam pool noodles, corks or just a bunch of sticks.
– Add some sand or salt to the water to give it a bit more ‘taste’ for the bees.
Bee drinking stations
There are numerous designs that you can use to tick the above criteria and keep bees hydrated and humans on both sides of the fence happy. These may be as simple as a bucket filled with water and few handfuls of sticks and leaves placed in it. You could use a birdbath with some small decorative pebbles placed in it.
The smaller the water source the more regularly it will need to be topped up. Commercial beekeepers will generally use IBCs or large cattle troughs with several hundred litres in them to ensure a reliable water source for several weeks on end. For most backyarders though, a tub of 20 to 50 litres should be fit for purpose and be sourced cheaply.
Other options that you could experiment with are hanging baskets with include coir fibre matting serviced by drip reticulation, or take advantage of a dripping tap by placing a shallow tray underneath. You are only limited by your imagination. Bees are not all that fussy, and so long as the criteria covered above are met, they’ll use whatever you offer them when they need to.
We have been on the losing end of this battle more than once. Trying to have bees at home with a pool of our own hasn’t always gone well either.
What we’ve found is that once bees have established a water source, they routinely return to that same source for their water collection. After they have found this source they rarely change to another source. In our experience, moving the bees away for a few weeks and then setting up a new water source for them upon their return, has worked well. If you already have a bee vs pool problem and the placement of a new water source has not fixed the issue, then you could also try moving them away for a month. What this does is re orientates the bees, with the older foragers who previously used the water source having died out after a few weeks, hence it will new a flock of foragers when you return the hive.
Remember, it is not always going to work, and as much as we would all like to host bees at our homes, human safety should always come first.