Unwanted Pool Guests

— Written By Michael Waldvogel
en Español / em Português

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Honey Bees –

A swimming pool behind a house

During hot dry weather, swimming pools can be an attraction to more than just swimmers (Photo – M. Waldvogel, NCSU)

When summer weather turns hot and dry, honey bees (and other insects) will frequently seek out any source of available water and that may bring them to swimming pools, water slides, decorative fountains, and similar locations. The sight of bees “swarming” around puddles of water along a swimming pool apron or landing on a water slide where kids and adults are passing by can alarm people, particularly those who are allergic to bee and wasp stings. The bees are simply there because they’re thirsty and the pool is an inviting source of water and even the odor of chlorine may attract them. Of course, that doesn’t mean there can’t be accidental (and painful) encounters between bees and pool enthusiasts, such as stepping on a bee with your bare foot as you move about pool apron or place a hand on the pool edge. For that reason, many people look for a simple quick fix that also doesn’t harm the bees, but unfortunately “quick”  just is not going to happen when you’re dealing with honey bees.

Just as when they forage for pollen and nectar, the bees establish a path to and from the source which is then followed repeatedly by them and other workers in the hive. You can’t simply introduce another source nearby and assume they’ll switch to that one instead. First, you’d have to know for certain where the bees were coming from. Bees will readily travel 1-2 miles searching for food and water sources and so pinpointing even their direction of travel can be difficult. While you may know that there are managed bee colonies nearby, that doesn’t mean that the bees visiting your pool came from there. They could just as easily be from a feral nest inside some old tree or a rock crevice or other spot. Here are some ideas to consider:

First, are they really honey bees? There are many solitary bees that resemble honey bees and that can make the hunt for them more complicated.

Water fountain and trash can in a park

Bees and yellow jackets may be attracted to food in a trash can as well as water from a nearby fountain. Keep  those areas clean. (Photo – M. Waldvogel, NCSU)

Second, are they really just collecting water? Particularly in public/community pool settings, bees may be attracted to nearby trash cans that contain discarded sugar-containing foods and beverages. Removing trash frequently and keeping the area cleaned (as seen in this photo) may help “persuade” the bees (as well as other stinging insects such as yellow jackets) to look elsewhere for an attractive food source.

Third, if the source is from a bee yard (managed bees in someone’s back yard or an apiary), then talk to the beekeeper to see if it is workable to relocate the bees temporarily so they establish new foraging paths. That’s not a simple task but it may be possible or if nothing else, you may learn more about bees by visiting the beekeeper.

Lastly, if the problem becomes more of an issue for pool users, your only real option may be to remove the source, i.e., drain the pool or cover it for at least five days and watch for the foraging activity to stop. Providing an alternative and possibly more attractive source at the same time (e.g., one containing sugar at least for the first week or ) may help, but it may still take several days for them to find and accept the source. Plus, that alternate source would need to be maintained for several weeks or else the bees may return to the pool. Obviously, this is not a simple task either and can be very disruptive to routine pool users particularly for municipal and community pools. This may be easier to address at the end of the year if the pool is routinely drained or if it’s scheduled for maintenance. Doing that work while the bees are still actively foraging will likely send them elsewhere and hopefully for good.


millipedes in a swimming pool.

Millipedes drawn to moist wood or  concrete pool aprons may fall in and clog the pool filter. (Photo – M. Waldvogel, NCSU)

Hot dry weather also means hot dry soils which can also mean hordes of millipedes moving out of mulched gardens or soil seeking moisture. That can also mean millipedes strolling about the pool apron or falling into the pool where they drowned and remain bobbing up and down or may clog the pools drain and filtering system. For obvious reasons, there aren’t any pesticides suitable for applying around a pool. One option may be to treat the nearby landscaping with a residual insecticide but keep in mind that a lawn and a pool are both areas where you will have children and adults running around bare foot. Another option may be to keep those landscaped/mulched areas well-watered to see if that keeps the millipedes interested in staying “closer to home”.