Bee populations continue to decline worldwide. There are many, interacting reasons. These include climate change, intensive farming, land conversion to housing, reduced food sources, exposure to agrochemicals, disease, parasites and invasive species. There’s not a lot the ordinary nature-lover can do about these.
However, another reason is the decreased availability of nesting places. And we can do something about this, by building a bee hotel.
What types of bees am I trying to attract?
When we think of bees we generally think of honeybees living in hives. But there are hundreds of species of wild bees. These are called ‘solitary bees’ because they make individual nest cells for their larvae.
Some of these bees nest in holes in the ground or in sandy banks. Others use the hollow stems of dead plants, or tunnels previously bored into dead wood by beetles. They do not swarm, nor live in hives. Solitary bees are harmless. They do not have painful stings like honey bees.
They collect nectar and pollen from flowers just like honeybees, and are vital for pollination.
A bee hotel can provide safe and secure all-year-round accommodation for these wild, solitary bees.
Prepare the materials
I am going to make a bee hotel from old pallets. These are generally available for free. I had to do a bit of searching but eventually found a pallet supplier locally who was only to happy to get rid of four old and broken pallets.
Construct the frame
A couple of them were really in a bad state, so I found some old planks and repaired them. Then it’s a simple matter of piling up a few on top of each other.
Prepare the bedrooms
I picked up some logs from the local forest and cut them into more manageable sizes. I then drilled holes of varying size and depth into them. These will act as nest cavities for the bees.
Also from the forest, I collected various smaller branches and twigs and cut them to size to fit into the spaces between the pallets. I also found some old bamboo canes which I bound together. And stuffed some dried grass into other cavities.
Add the roof
You need to keep the hotel reasonably dry and waterproof. In my case I added a layer of old tiles on the top.
Ready for occupation
The ideal location would be south-facing, maybe at the bottom of your garden. If you are able to grow lots of wild flowers loved by bees in the immediate vicinity of your bee hotel, so much the better. This will ensure they have a nearby food supply.
I also hope that the bee hotel will attract other insects too. For example, in the winter months it could prove useful for hibernating butterflies, ladybirds and other beetles.
Making a bee hotel might be a great winter project for you and the children, in preparation for the coming spring.
If you want to know more about how to make your garden attractive to wildlife, here is an excellent book: