How Do I Keep Bees Away from My Pool?

Ask the Expert!

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Backyard Beekeeping reader asks:

My neighbor’s bees like to sit on the wall between my hot tub and pool and drink water.  I was wondering if it is safe for bees to drink chlorinated pool water or if I should try to retrain the bees to a different water source? I was thinking of adding wine corks on some twine and tying that to my floating chlorinator since the bees tend to get caught in the water flowing over the wall and lots of them drown this way.

Rusty Burlew replies:

It is well-known that honey bees are attracted to chlorine in pools. Although bees have eyesight that is perfect for finding flowers and evading enemies, it’s not so good for finding water. For that, bees rely on their sense of smell. So water with an odor is more likely to be found. Other than chlorine, they all also attracted to water that contains algae, slime, fungus, and mud.

The amount of chlorine in pools is not detrimental to bees, but drowning is. However, it is extremely difficult, some say impossible, to change a water source for honey bees. Once they know where to go, they return to the same place over and over, although some people have had success by imitating the water source in a nearby but safer location.

So here’s a try-it. Make a watering trough by piling stones in a shallow dish such as a pie plate or one of the saucers designed for flower pots. Place the dish near to where the bees are now drinking and add some of the chlorinated water that they are now accustomed to, making sure the stones provide plenty of places for bees to stand. Then, add a tablespoon or so of honey to the water. Try this for a few days, and if it attracts bees, gradually switch to fresh water to break them of the chlorine habit. Keep adding honey for a few more weeks if the system works, then switch to plain water. If it gets green and slimy, all the better.

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