Many people with hot tubs deal with the occasional uninvited guest under the cover or floating in the water. Frogs, lizards, and other moisture-seeking creatures are almost expected. However, some people experience dozens, even hundreds, of honey bees in their hot tub, leaving owners to wonder why the bees are attracted to it and what they can do about it.
Honey bees are attracted to your hot tub because they, like all living things, need water. Since they need it to drink and cool their hives, bees hunt for a reliable water source. They’ll also regularly return to the same supply and direct others from the colony to the water’s location.
In this article, I’ll explain a few other topics related to this question in greater detail, including why bees hunt for water sources, what makes your hot tub so appealing, and some tips and techniques to keep them out of your hot tub.
Why Does a Hot Tub Attract Honey Bees?
Many people find their hot tubs and pools may sometimes become scattered with bee corpses. Bees need water just like we do, but they don’t get much of it from their food sources. As a result, bees seek out water elsewhere, and they sometimes find a hot tub to be an accessible location.
Bees are attracted to nutrient-rich water, and they use their sense of smell to find the best sources.
The chlorine odor from a hot tub may attract honey bees, especially if it also contains scented additives. Bees also don’t like to get their feet wet, so the side of your hot tub is an ideal spot.
Sometimes, however, honey bees may, unfortunately, end up in your hot tub because they are desperate for water, and it is the nearest source to the hive. This is especially true during hot summer months or during times when rain is scarce.
How Honey Bees Select Water Sources
To better understand why bees are swarming to your hot tub, it helps to know how these buzzers locate their water supply, to begin with. Honey bees are attracted to water by scent and by the amount of moisture they detect in the air.
This makes a hot tub a perfect source, as they typically have strong smells (from chlorine and other chemicals), and the concentration of water vapor and moisture in the surrounding air is high.
Some bees have the assigned job of finding water and bringing it back to the hive. Once a honey bee locates a sound watering hole, it will alert other bees to the location by doing what’s called a waggle dance.
Bees use these clever movements to inform other colony members which direction to travel and how far of a distance it is to retrieve water and food sources.
Once bees find a viable water source, they tend to continue to use it again and again. They are reluctant to leave it, which is another reason many people find dozens of honey bees in their hot tubs. Even though many colony members drown, others will continue to return to the same water source.
Why Do Honey Bees Collect Water?
One of the reasons for so many honey bees in pools and hot tubs is because they search for water for more than just drinking. They actually collect water and bring it back to the hive. Bees even have a unique straw-like appendage, known as a proboscis, for sucking up nectar and water to carry it back to the colony.
Honey bees collect water and bring it back to the hive for a couple of reasons. Inside the hive, many bees are working, and all that work results in heat production. Worker bees use water to cool down the hive. Additionally, they also use the transported water to rear their brood.
In the winter months, these clever insects use water to thin crystallized honey, so it’s smooth and easy to consume when they cannot forage.
What You Can Do About Honey Bees in Your Hot Tub
With the many biological and instinctual reasons that honey bees end up in your hot tub (and stay there), it can be challenging to deter such behavior. However, there are some things you can do to help resolve this problem.
Cover Your Hot Tub
The first and most obvious solution is to invest in a quality cover for your hot tub if you don’t already have one. If you do have a cover, you should make sure that it fits tightly, using straps and velcro to help secure it snugly against the sides.
Some of the users on a beekeeping forum also suggest using a large piece of plastic sheeting over the top of the cover to further keep the bees from finding their way inside.
Provide an Alternate Water Source
Another solution, and one that can supplement covering the hot tub, is to provide an alternative water source for your flying visitors. Here are some tips for creating a new watering hole for the honey bees:
- Put out a birdbath: A birdbath with a rim that the bees can land on and some rocks in the middle for the same purpose can provide a viable alternative to the hot tub. Place it near the hot tub, and add a little salt to the mix to help attract them by scent.
- Honey bee water dispenser: Another solution is a ready-made water dispenser that’s designed for bees to drink from. You can get these on Amazon.com, like this set of three from Ronyoung. I like these because you can easily see how much water is inside, and you can even place them near the entrance to the hive.
- Bird feeders: You can even re-purpose a bird feeder for something a little more decorative or if you want to put out multiple water sources. I have one like this Liffy Hanging Bird Bath on Amazon.com, and I love it because other critters can use it, too. It looks pretty hanging from a nearby tree, and it will refill naturally with rainwater.
Use a Repellent
If covering your hot tub isn’t working, and your alternative water source isn’t attracting the honey bees, you can also try to deter them in other ways. As I mentioned earlier, honey bees use their sense of smell to find water. You can also use this trait to help keep them away with scents that they don’t like.
Peppermint and other essential oils are known to repel bees. Mixing some of these strongly scented oils into the spa water can help keep them away, as can diluting the oils in a spray bottle with water and misting around the hot tub.
Other oils that can help include:
- Tea tree
You can also find all-natural insect sprays that are made with these ingredients, so they’re not harmful to the honey bees, like this Mighty Mint Spray on Amazon.com. I like it because it’s safe for the environment and effective against other pests.
Honey bees are attracted to your hot tub because of the scent, the moisture content in the air, and because they use water for multiple purposes. Once they’ve found a water source, it can be hard to get them to find a new one.
You can try to resolve this problem by providing an alternative water source or deterring them with scents that they don’t like, such as peppermint or spearmint oils.
- University of California: The bee gardener
- PSU.EDU: The choice of drinking water by the honeybee
- Ask A Biologist: Bee Anatomy
- Extension Foundation: Bee Health
- American Bee Journal: Honey Bee Biology
- Honey Bee World: Hot tub dilemma
- Bee Pods: Why Honey Bees Need Water and How You Can Provide It