Aug 14, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2018

Ask Birdsquatch: What's Wrong with My Bird Bath?

Having difficulty getting birds to visit your backyard bird bath? Check out tips from Birdsquatch.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

We have been maintaining a birdbath in our backyard for more than 10 years. It has always been visited by a few bees every day. They seem to stay on the damp surface where water has partially evaporated, and after a while they fly off. We think the bees collect water to take back to their hive for cooling (this is Texas and it can be very hot).

Last year the number of bee visitors increased, and this year there are so many that birds won't use the birdbath. We don't want to hurt the bees, but we miss seeing birds splashing in the bath. Why would there be this sudden increase? If we put in a second birdbath would we have the same problem.

We enjoy your column and look forward to your observations.

—Sara M., Houston, Texas

Dear Sara,

Like most living things (including birds, humans, and sasquatches), bees need water to survive. I'm betting that the water from your birdbath has helped a local hive survive the Texas heat and grow larger. This could explain the increase in bee traffic over time. Your suggestion to put in a second birdbath is on the right track, but I suggest you make one just for the bees. This is easy to do.

Get a shallow basin, such as a ceramic or plastic plant dish—the kind of shallow bowl you place under large houseplants to catch excess water. Cover the bottom with a layer of small stones, such as pea gravel; fill it with water so that it almost covers the rocks, but not quite. Then place the "bee bath" in a quiet, shady place. Bees and many other insects prefer to drink from the edge of a water source. They don't need to immerse themselves, which is why you want the stones to be wet, but not completely under water.

Now, drain your regular birdbath to encourage the bees to transition their attention to the new source. Leave the birdbath unfilled for a few days, until the bees discover their special place. Use this opportunity to thoroughly clean your birdbath. Next put the birdbath in a different location than before to further discourage the bees.

If this strategy does not work, you may need to explore other options, such as asking a local nuisance wildlife official to examine if you could effectively move the bees to another hive or location. If this strategy does work, then please leave me a blueberry pie in a tree at the edge of your yard.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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