Creating a bee hotel

 

Creating a bee hotel where solitary bees can raise the next generation couldn’t be simpler. It also has a great chance of success, no matter how large or small your outside space, but there are some golden rules that will really boost your chances.

Solitary bees are, as their name suggests, only likely to be seen in ones and twos, but they are still vital pollinators of our fruit, flowers and veg. They are typically smaller than honey bees and just go about their business unobtrusively. They are perfect guests! So, welcome them with the perfect accommodation. What’s more, you can customise the design to your heart’s content.

 

Step by step

Some of our 225 or so species of solitary bee, including several that love flower-rich gardens, like to nest in holes in wood. Inside, a queen will lay her eggs, provisioning each with a supply of nectar and pollen, and then seal up the entrance. Her youngsters will emerge the following year. So, although they are often called bee hotels, in many ways they are more a nursery.

Here’s how to make your own:

  1. Find an old log or thick piece of timber. It must be untreated – bees will be harmed if the wood has been soaked or painted with chemicals.
  2. Then, with the log held firmly in a DIY stand or vice, carefully drill a series of deep holes in the log, in whatever pattern takes your fancy. Write your name, make an attractive shape, draw a picture - the choice is yours!
  3. Drill as deeply as the drill bit will allow, but don’t come out the other side of the wood.
  4. Vary the drill bit size between about 2mm and 10mm in diameter. Any wider and bees won’t use it.
  5. Get as much of the sawdust out of the hole as possible by going in and out with the drill.
  6. Sandpaper over the entrances to make sure there are no splinters. Bees won’t go down a hole if they risk snagging their wings.
  7. Then put your hotel in its permanent home, following the golden rules!
  • The bee hotel should be in as sunny and sheltered position as possible, facing south.
  • It should be slightly elevated if possible – knee height is great.
  • The holes should be horizontal or angled slightly downwards so rain can’t run into them.
  • It should be secure – not swinging around all over the place.


And that’s it! You may see bees visiting it any time between about late March and September, but what you are most likely to notice is when the holes are sealed up, either with mud or with a paste made of green leaves. That shows you have been successful, and can call yourselves proud protectors of future generations.