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The Green Thumb: Water your pollinators

 Two bees resting on a flower

Like all animals, pollinators rely heavily on water for their survival. Pollinators, including about 1,000 native bee species in Utah, provide essential ecosystem services for our gardens and it is certainly thirsty work.

However, the pollen and nectar that make up a bee's diet don't contain much moisture, so it is essential for them to locate a water source. Worker bees will collect water internally to haul back to the hive to use in tasks like caring for young and hive temperature regulation.

Providing a simple bee watering station in your garden is an easy and meaningful way to support local pollinators in Utah, so here are five tips to have a safe and effective bee watering station.

First, start early — as soon as outdoor temperatures start rising and flowers are blooming, bees will start foraging. This early season is an important time for bees to become healthy and strong. These are also great learners; once they find a water source they are likely to return.

Second, location is everything. Once you have a well established water source, you may receive a lot of bee traffic. Be sure to place the watering station away from areas of high human or pet traffic. Choose a spot in or near your garden with plenty of attractive flowers.

Third, shallow is better. Bees can't swim, so be sure to provide a shallow dish or something for them to land on. You can add rocks, marbles or even corks to provide safe landing pads.

Fourth, keep it clean. Standing water can attract mosquitoes. Be sure to replace the water in your container two to three times a week during warm weather when mosquitoes are breeding. Give the container a good scrub and refill with fresh, clean water.

Fifth, make it salty. Bees prefer salty water because, like for us, saltwater provides important minerals. Sprinkling in a little initially will help bees find and remember the water source.

Building a DIY bee station is easy and can be a great family activity. Any container can work as long as as it is shallow or filled with objects to land on. So go water your pollinators!