The distribution of kinetic helicity in a dipolar planetary dynamo is central to the success of that dynamo. Motivated by the helicity distributions observed in numerical simulations of the Earth’s dynamo, we consider the relationship between the kinetic helicity,
$h=\boldsymbol{u}\boldsymbol{\cdot }\unicode[STIX]{x1D735}\times \boldsymbol{u}$
, and the buoyancy field that acts as a source of helicity, where
$\boldsymbol{u}$
is velocity. We show that, in the absence of a magnetic field, helicity evolves in accordance with the equation
$\unicode[STIX]{x2202}h/\unicode[STIX]{x2202}t=-\unicode[STIX]{x1D735}\boldsymbol{\cdot }\boldsymbol{F}+S_{h}$
, where the flux,
$\boldsymbol{F}$
, represents the transport of helicity by inertial waves, and the helicity source,
$S_{h}$
, involves the product of the buoyancy and the velocity fields. In the numerical simulations it is observed that the helicity outside the tangent cylinder is predominantly negative in the north and positive in the south, a feature which the authors had previously attributed to the transport of helicity by waves (Davidson & Ranjan, Geophys. J. Intl, vol. 202, 2015, pp. 1646–1662). It is also observed that there is a strong spatial correlation between the distribution of
$h$
and of
$S_{h}$
, with
$S_{h}$
also predominantly negative in the north and positive in the south. This correlation tentatively suggests that it is the in situ generation of helicity by buoyancy that establishes the distribution of
$h$
outside the tangent cylinder, rather than the dispersal of helicity by waves, as had been previously argued by the authors. However, although
$h$
and
$S_{h}$
are strongly correlated, there is no such correlation between
$\unicode[STIX]{x2202}h/\unicode[STIX]{x2202}t$
and
$S_{h}$
, as might be expected if the distribution of
$h$
were established by an in situ generation mechanism. We explain these various observations by showing that inertial waves interact with the buoyancy field in such a way as to induce a source
$S_{h}$
which has the same sign as the helicity in the local wave flux, and that the sign of
$h$
is simply determined by the direction of that flux. We conclude that the observed distributions of
$h$
and
$S_{h}$
outside the tangent cylinder are consistent with the transport of helicity by waves.