People passionate about nature

Give Your Bees and Butterflies a Drink!

Photo taken by Diane Kunec

Your garden is blooming, the bees are humming and the butterflies are flitting.  Everything is going according to plan, right?  Well, given how hot and dry it has already been this summer, the pollinators visiting your yard might also appreciate a reliable drink close by.

And it’s so easy to do.  With just a few things (many of which you might already have at hand), you can create a bee hydration station or a butterfly puddler in less than an hour.  The hardest thing will be deciding what to put in each for perches, as there are so many options.

The key is to make watering stations that are safe and attractive to pollinators by meeting their specific needs. Finding good spots in your yard for these stations and keeping them there will also help pollinators spend less energy finding the water on return visits.


photo taken by Janine Bergamot

Here’s what you need for both types of stations:

  • A shallow dish or tray ( ~1-1.5” deep) at least 12” in diameter (larger is better). Clay pot liners (or plastic) work well and are easy to find at garden centres, or maybe you have some spare ones from pots long gone. Even an old shallow ceramic dish can be repurposed.
  • Some substrate. For the bees it could be clean rocks (not gravel), or coloured glass decorating pebbles from the Dollar store.  For the butterflies, sand (not the sanitized type for kiddie play areas, just regular sand) with a couple of tablespoons of compost or well-rotted manure mixed in, will provide the nutrients they are looking for.
  • Some pieces of wood you find from rotting trees (not lumber, treated wood or wood chips), shells, large flat rocks, and/or sturdy sticks to use as perches. Most pollinators cannot risk getting their wings wet, so need safe perches to sit on while drinking. 

For bees, cover the bottom of the dish with smaller rocks or glass pebbles.  Then use pieces of wood or large, flat stones to make bee “rafts” that stick up out of the water.  A few thicker sticks can work too.  You may want to add a few cut blooms from your garden to attract the bees’ attention.  Once they find it, they will let others know. Add water, being sure not to submerge the perches. Change the water frequently, to keep it fresh and not promote mosquitoes hatching.

For butterflies and other pollinators that are attracted to puddles for the salts they need, fill your container almost to the rim with the sand (with manure or compost mixed in).  Then add some perches: large stones, shells or sticks, where they can sit and safely drink water from the wet sand. Butterflies particularly like to sit and bask in sun, so a large, flat rock or two would provide a good spot for them to do this. Add a bit of salt to the water before you pour it into the station to saturate the sand. Use only sea salt, Kosher salt or pickling salt (about 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of salt to 1 L of water), not iodized table salt. Keep a jug of salted water on hand to add as the sand dries out.  Keep it saturated, but don’t create any standing puddles.

Place these watering stations in an area protected from wind, close to the plants where the pollinators may be feeding, in a spot that will get some sun and shade. Providing for the hydration needs of pollinators in your garden will help them help your garden to thrive!

Written by Diane Kunec