Bee-friendly habitats are crucial, and making a hotel is a great way to attract solitary bees to your garden and provide shelter for these vital pollinators. It’s check-in time so read on, says Janey Goulding
How To Make A Bee Hotel
To paraphrase a song sampled by Primal Scream, we want a bee free to do what he (or she) wants to do. And one of the best ways to invite passing bees to stick around long enough to pollinate your plants is to give them a place to rest and nest.
Bee hotels are ideal sheltering spots for solitary types such as mason bees and leafcutter bees. Just grab a few natural materials and follow this guide, then sit back and enjoy the buzz your bee shack brings to the plot.
They may not feature miniature towels, maid service or cable TV, but these guesthouses are fun to make – and rest assured, beauty really is in the eye of the bee-holder!
Make an ‘Air Bee and Bee’
Bee hotels are a great way of upcycling old pallets and planks of wood along with natural bee-friendly materials such as bamboo stalks or sturdy hollow plant stems.
You need: a rough sawn wood pallet, a hand saw, three flat head nails, sandpaper, two 2in paint brushes, fine mesh chicken wire, 10 metal pins, wire clippers, fixing bracket, drill and screws, and 5l tin of outdoor wood paint (this project used Cuprinol’s ‘5 Year Ducksback Silver Copse’), plus pine cones, hessian, jute, straw, natural dried grasses, cut bamboo, etc.
1 Saw off the end of the pallet using a hand saw. Lever off one of the planks from the discarded pallet and nail to the back of the cut section creating an open fronted box with two long slots.
2 Lightly sand the pallet, then dust off with a clean brush. Paint with two coats of outdoor wood paint. Allow to dry. Once dry, fill each slot with natural materials.
3 Cut a length of chicken wire to cover the open front and hammer in small staples. Trim to size. Fix bracket to the back, hang on a fence and wait for the first visitor to your bee hotel!
• Air Bee and Bee image and step-by-step: kind permission of Cuprinol
Remember these four points before you create your bee hotel:
• Get creative:
Whether you prefer a rustic chicken wire condo or a vibrant hexagonal sky rise, the only limit is your garden space. A bee hotel doesn’t have to be massive, though we doff our caps to more expansive and intricate examples like The Bee Hotel in Place des Jardins in Paris (see above).
Try a variety of natural materials to see what works best (cones, bark, straw, card tubes, terracotta, bricks, etc.), but think about the comfort of your guest. Tubes need to be at least 100mm deep and have diameters between 6-10mm.
Bees prefer sun, so a south-facing wall is perfect. The ideal height for a bee hotel is 1-1.5m off the ground so you can keep an eye on the comings and goings of your hotel guests.
Once settled in, bees like to stay nearby, so keep your hotel close to fragrant, nectar-rich garden flowers, fruit and veg plants. Just like us, bees appreciate the nearness of a pretty view!
Did you know?
You can even make a simple bumblebee des-res if you have an upturned terracotta flowerpot, a slate, some stones and a bit of old hose pipe connecting the base of the ‘hotel’ to a nearby ground entrance.
Just bear in mind that lady bumbles looking to nest tend to be attracted to a particular smell – mouse wee! There’s no accounting for taste. Still, a bumble house is well worth a try…
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Main image: Alamy